Microsoft’s legal team has been criticized by a federal judge for being over-aggressive. According to a transcript released this week, judge James Robart took issue with the company’s attitude.
The disagreement centers around a Seattle-based class action gender discrimination lawsuit. Three Microsoft employees say that the company’s pay and promotion policies discriminate against women.
Microsoft denied the claims and has been fighting the suit ever since. Particular controversy has arisen over which internal documents the company needs to provide.
In June, Robart told Microsoft to provide documents from 2010 onwards. However, the firm’s legal team told opposing lawyers they would only provide documents from September 2012 or later.
The Redmond giant says that documents before this date are not relevant to the case, and it’s for this that they have come under fire.
Robart criticized Microsoft for forcing him to rule on the same issue twice, and therefore wasting valuable time. According to Robart, the team is being overly aggressive and is trying to find loopholes in his orders.
Microsoft is represented by legal firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, who told the court it thought it was doing as requested.
“Well, it is clear that I do not speak Orrick,” said Robart in response. “It is also clear to me, at this point, that the Orrick firm doesn’t speak English.”
The judge stresses that he has had the same problem in a previous Microsoft case. The result is a court that has had to go back and remedy situations repeatedly. In the future, Microsoft’s chief legal officer will have to sign off on any future filings.
Microsoft’s only response to the matter is that it will “continue to cooperate with plaintiffs’ counsel to reach a reasonable resolution.”
Whether or not the accusations are correct remains to be seen, but the plaintiff’s lawyers have some reasonable backing. Orrick says the U.S. Labor Department has preliminary evidence of gender discrimination by the Redmond giant.
However, we don’t know what these findings were, or if they are relevant to this particular case. It’s possible that they were from different unit or country entirely.
Regardless, Microsoft will have to handle the case very carefully to avoid further negative press.