Home / Strategy / Careers / Microsoft just hired a chief diversity officer — and IBM is suing them over it

Microsoft just hired a chief diversity officer — and IBM is suing them over it


ginni rometty
IBM
CEO Ginni Rometty

Mike
Blake/Reuters


  • IBM is suing Microsoft for poaching its chief diversity
    officer and human resources executive, Lindsay-Rae
    McIntyre.
  • On Monday, a court issued a temporary restraining order
    which prevents McIntyre from working at Microsoft until further
    notice.
  • Using Microsoft’s own arguments from a previous
    lawsuit, IBM is arguing that its diversity strategy is both
    confidential and “potentially damaging” if shared with its
    competitors.

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 Microsoft
for poaching its top diversity officer, Lindsay-Rae McIntyre 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. 

Microsoft ultimately got some of the documents in the case
sealed, and others released with redactions.

In its official response to IBM, Microsoft argued that
enforcing McIntyre’s non-compete agreement is “draconian,”
as McIntyre has promised not to share confidential information
with Microsoft.  

It’s worth noting that IBM’s employee ranks are not a paragon of
diversity: According to IBM’s website, women comprised 31.8% of
its global workforce in 2016.

Get the latest
IBM stock price here.


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