"Washington State Supreme Court Rules Against Microsoft in Retaliation Lawsuit by Ex-Employee"
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2018 by Pivotal Law Group
Recently, the Washington State Supreme Court heard a case regarding a former Microsoft Employee “who accused the company of laying her off in retaliation for taking prior legal action in a gender-discrimination complaint”. In 2004, Cornwell the former employee expressed her concerns to her supervisor that her performance reviews may be poor as her manager had been favoring another employee. She was quickly assigned to a new role. However, in 2005, Cornwell began to raise more concerns about her performance reviews claiming that she was being discriminated against as her peers felt she was performing well, but her new manager was reporting otherwise. This led Cornwell to hire an attorney and sue the company based on the discrimination that was taking place. She was eventually able to come to a settlement agreement with the company and was transferred to a new department.
However, a couple years later Cornwell’s new supervisor asked her to mentor an employee who worked under her previous supervisor that committed the discriminatory acts. Cornwell explained that due to the previous events she would not be able to mentor the employee. The senior supervisor and manager ended up giving Cornwell some of the lowest performance rankings yet again, and shortly after she was laid off. Cornwell then “filed a lawsuit alleging Microsoft retaliated against her in violation of the state’s anti-discrimination law”. The ruling sided with Microsoft as they claimed there was not sufficient evidence that “the manager who gave Cornwell a poor score knew about the initial legal action and settlement”. However, the Supreme Court heard the case due to an appeal and this time they sided with Cornwell as the Court concluded there was “sufficient evidence to link her initial legal action to the poor review she received years later and the company’s decision to lay her off”. This decision was significant as it may set “a precedent that employees no longer have to prove company officials had ‘actual knowledge’ of a complaint at the time they took punitive actions against them”, making it difficult for companies to win these cases by simply denying knowledge.