Microsoft Settles in Case Alleging Anti-Gay Workplace Harassment
A gay employee of the British arm of Microsoft has reached a settlement with the firm in a suit alleging anti-gay workplace harassment.
Jamie Durrant, a 38-year-old designer for XBox, claimed to have been subjected to anti-gay harassment in the office following the acquisition of the company for which he worked, Lionhead Studios, by the software giant.
According to Durrant’s claim, email messages were circulated mocking him as "fag boy Jim," among other taunts. Durrant claimed that the company’s Human Resources office "blatantly disregarded" his complaints and, at one point, attempted to get him to sign documents promising not to bring action against the company.
The claim sought damages plus pay for time lost; Durrant said that he had been unable to work for seven months due to "depression."
Durrant’s claim followed a complaint from a self-identified lesbian named Teresa, who said her XBox Live account was canceled after she listed herself as being a lesbian in her online profile.
In the interests of fairness, all player profiles are supposed to be kept free of any reference to the player’s sexual orientation, be it gay or straight.
But the vagueness of the reasons for that rule, and the fact that an XBox Live playing lesbian says she was harassed by other players and had her account suspended by Microsoft for disclosing her sexuality, led to what XBox Live’s program manager for policy and enforcement Stephen Toulouse called a "’Microsoft sides with the homophobes’ meme."
Said Teresa, "Microsoft does nothing to stop this or prevent it."
Other gay and lesbian players have also blogged and chatted online about their experiences, including being "killed" by their own teammates.
Toulouse declared that "harassment of gamers of any type be it homophobia or racism or other, is expressly forbidden and my team will take action against it, up to and including a permanent ban."
The suit, which sought more than $65,000, was brought to an employment tribunal where, according to an April 2 article at Pink News the parties settled in an undisclosed agreement.
A spokesman for the firm was quoted as saying, "We are pleased to have reached an amicable resolution to this matter with Mr. Durrant.
"The terms of the settlement are confidential, but we can confirm that Mr. Durrant will not continue his employment at Lionhead as part of the agreement."
The spokesperson continued, "Microsoft has a longstanding commitment to diversity. We attract, recruit and respect diverse talent and we have included sexual orientation in our anti-discrimination policies for 20 years.
"Our efforts have been recognized by a wide range of groups, including the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in its 2009 Corporate Equality Index," the Microsoft spokesperson added.
"We do not tolerate breaches of our code of business conduct and take any complaints extremely seriously."
The spokesperson went on to say, "Throughout this process, those to whom Mr. Durrant brought his concerns have taken them seriously and concrete actions have been taken to address them.
"Neither Mr. Durrant’s sexual orientation nor the nature of his complaint had any bearing on the way it was handled."
Durrant would not comment for the story, Pink News reported.