US Labor Department is examining Microsoft's initiative to hire more Black employees

The department suggests the tech giant may be participating in "unlawful discrimination on the basis of race."

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
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Abrar Al-Heeti
2 min read

Microsoft is defending its diversity initiatives. 

Angela Lang/CNET

The US Department of Labor is looking into whether Microsoft's goal of doubling the number of Black managers, senior individual contributors and senior leaders in the US by 2025 "could constitute unlawful discrimination on the basis of race," the tech giant said in a Tuesday blog post. That would violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Last week, the US Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) reached out to Microsoft regarding diversity commitments the company made in June "to address issues faced by the Black and African American community," Microsoft general counsel Dev Stahlkopf said in the blog post. As a federal contractor, the tech giant is subject to many OFCCP requirements, including those related to employment practices.

On June 23, Microsoft said it would invest an additional $150 million over five years in its internal diversity and inclusion programs. In its letter, the OFCCP said the initiative "appears to imply that employment action may be taken on the basis of race," according to the company. The letter further asked Microsoft to prove its actions aren't illegal race-based decisions. 

"We have every confidence that Microsoft's diversity initiative complies fully with all US employment laws," Stahlkopf wrote. "We look forward to providing the OFCCP with this information and, if necessary, defending our approach."

Microsoft says it's clear that it's illegal to discriminate based on race, adding: "We also have affirmative obligations as a company that serves the federal government to continue to increase the diversity of our workforce....We have decades of experience and know full well how to appropriately create opportunities for people without taking away opportunities from others."

The OFCCP didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Microsoft and other tech giants have made pledges in recent years to boost diversity in their workforces as employees and organizations have increasingly called out "bro culture" and discrimination, especially following the #MeToo movement. Part of Microsoft's latest push for diversity includes expanding recruitment from a wider range of colleges and universities and training employees on inclusive hiring practices.