Microsoft Just Hired A Chief Diversity Officer — And IBM Is Suing Them Over It

Tech companies have a less than stellar record hiring women and minorities. But these companies will apparently do whatever it takes — including launching a legal fight — to hire one type of person: a Chief Diversity Officer.

IBM is suing its former top diversity officer Lindsay-Rae McIntyre after she got poached by Microsoft, in a case that could prove just how important diversity, recruitment, and retention has become for tech companies.

McIntyre, who joined IBM in 2006, was named chief diversity officer of Microsoft on Sunday, after serving in the same role and as VP of human resources at IBM. IBM, in its complaint, argues that McIntyree had access to diversity data, strategies, methodologies and initiatives that are confidential, and that she "will use, rely on or divulge" these strategies in her new role.

On Monday, IBM was granted a temporary restraining order in New York federal court, which prevents McIntyre from working for Microsoft until the court decides otherwise.


"McIntyre was at the center of highly confidential and competitively sensitive information that has fueled IBM's success in these areas," a representative for IBM said in a statement. "While we understand Microsoft's need to deal with mounting criticism of its record on diversity, IBM intends to fully enforce Ms. McIntyre's non-compete agreement to protect our competitive information."

IBM is using another Microsoft lawsuit to argue its case

At the heart of IBM's complaint is an on-going lawsuit from 2015, Moussouris v. Microsoft Corporation. The lawsuit alleges that Microsoft systematically discriminated against women in technical and engineering roles at the company when it came to evaluations, pay, and promotions.

The briefings for that lawsuit wrapped up on February 9. Now it is up to the courts to decide whether or not the case has class-action status.

As part of its non-compete case, IBM is looking to use Microsoft's own legal arguments from the Moussouris lawsuit to make its own point.

In April 2017, to prevent certain information from being released publicly in the discovery process, Microsoft argued that such diversity data is "not merely confidential, but so sensitive and potentially damaging to Microsoft if revealed to its competitors (e.g., IBM), that the court should take the extraordinary measure of putting the information under seal," according to IBM's complaint.


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