The Federal Government Is Investigating Microsoft for Hiring Black People

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Oct 07, 2020

Microsoft wants to double the number of Black people who work in managerial or senior-level positions by 2025, but the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) is dead set against it, according to a statement published by Microsoft on October 6.

To combat racism, Microsoft made a commitment on June 23 to invest $150 million over five years to expand its diversity and inclusion programs and to reach more Black talent. Though Microsoft’s commitment letter didn’t include names, it came less than a month after George Floyd’s May 25 killing by a Minneapolis police officer. The company wrote that it “unequivocally believe[d] that Black lives matter.” Yet the letter Microsoft said it received from OFCCP questioned whether the company’s desire for racial equity “could constitute unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, which would violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.”

And the computing company isn’t alone. Wells Fargo received the same kind of letter from the OFCCP, Bloomberg reported. In a statement on October 6, the financial institution reportedly said, “Wells Fargo is committed to and taking action to become a more diverse and inclusive company,” and that “numerous efforts are underway to implement changes at all levels of the company, and we are confident that they comply with U.S. employment laws.”

These letters suggesting that the corporations might be breaking the law stem from President Donald Trump’s September 22 executive order “to combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating” for any company that receives federal funding. As a result, Microsoft could be in jeopardy of losing the $10 billion dollar military cloud-computing contract it has with the Defense Department, according to Forbes

The Labor Department told the Associated Press it “appreciates Microsoft’s assurance on its website that it is not engaging in racial preferences or quotas in seeking to reach its affirmative action and outreach goals.” Microsoft responded that, “We also have affirmative obligations as a company that serves the federal government to continue to increase the diversity of our workforce, and we take those obligations very seriously.”

The administration’s position, however, is not in line with public opinion. The Washington Post reported that job aggregator Glassdoor saw a 63 percent increase over the summer in employee reviews that mentioned diversity as a benefit and that more than 40 private and publicly traded companies have pledged to add at least one Black person to their board of directors by next year. 

"It looks like the administration is beginning a concerted strategy to tamp down on organizational (diversity, equity and inclusion) efforts," Joelle Emerson, founder of the diversity and inclusion strategy firm Paradigm, told USA Today. "Such strategies don’t encourage discrimination, they do the exact opposite. A wealth of research shows that in the absence of clear efforts to advance diversity, the outcome is bias against applicants and employees from underrepresented backgrounds."