Microsoft's $14.4 Million Settlement Case of Leave Discrimination!

Microsoft’s $14.4 Million Settlement: Case of Leave Discrimination!

Microsoft Corp. has agreed to a $14.4 million settlement following allegations that it discriminated against employees who took protected leave, such as parental or disability leave. The California Civil Rights Department, which spearheaded a multi-year investigation into the matter, announced the proposed settlement on Wednesday.

What were the allegations?

This legal action, initiated in 2020, highlighted that Microsoft employees who took leave due to pregnancy, disability, new baby bonding, or caring for a sick family member faced repercussions. These included lower bonuses, unfavorable performance reviews, and subsequent disadvantages in merit pay increases and promotions. The investigation revealed that these practices disproportionately affected women and people with disabilities.

The settlement awaits approval from a state court in Santa Clara County, where Microsoft maintains an office. California Civil Rights Department Director Kevin Kish commended Microsoft for agreeing to necessary changes to safeguard workers’ rights in California.

Despite agreeing to the settlement, Microsoft has maintained that the allegations are inaccurate. However, the company expressed a commitment to continue supporting its employees and improving workplace policies.

What measures will Microsoft implement?

As part of the settlement, Microsoft will implement measures to prevent future discrimination, including enhanced training for managers. An independent consultant will oversee the company’s compliance and provide reports.

Of the $14.4 million settlement, $14.2 million will be allocated to affected employees who worked at Microsoft from May 13, 2017, to the court approval date of the settlement and who took at least one state or federally protected leave. Eligible employees will receive a base payment of $1,500, with additional amounts determined by factors such as salary and employment duration.

Microsoft employs approximately 221,000 people worldwide, including nearly 7,000 in California. The exact number of employees eligible for compensation has yet to be determined by the state civil rights agency.

Protected Leaves in Ontario

Under the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”), employees in Ontario are entitled to protected leaves of absence. Employees who take an ESA-compliant leave of absence are job-protected, meaning that the employee is entitled to remain in their position after the leave or in a comparable position if their job no longer exists.

Employees are entitled to the following types of leaves under the ESA:

Type of Leave Maximum per Year Paid Leave Notice Required
Parental Leave 61-63 weeks No 2 weeks’ written notice
Pregnancy Leave 17 weeks No 2 weeks’ written notice
Sick Leave 3 days No Oral or written notice
Bereavement Leave 2 days No Oral or written notice
Family Responsibility Leave 3 days No Oral or written notice
Family Caregiver Leave 8 weeks No Written Notice
Child Death Leave 104 weeks No Written notice with a timeline for return
Critical Illness Leave 17-37 weeks No Written notice
Crime-Related Child Disappearance Leave 104 weeks No Written notice with a timeline for return
Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave 10 days or 15 weeks First 5 days paid, remainder unpaid Oral or written notice
Organ Donor Leave 13 weeks, then another 13 weeks’ extension No 2 weeks’ written notice
Reservist Leave Unlimited No 4 weeks’ written notice
Family Medical Leave 28 weeks No Written notice
Jury Duty Leave Unlimited No Written notice


For some protected leaves such as parental and pregnancy leave, employees can apply for Employment Insurance if the employer is not paying the employee during their leave of absence. Employees should refer to federal government’s website on Employment Insurance benefits and leave to determine whether an employee is eligible for employment insurance during their leave of absence.

An employer is not permitted to punish or discriminate against an employee who is on an ESA-protected leave. An employer who reprimands or discriminates against an employee who takes one of the ESA protected leaves above may be liable for damages.


The Microsoft settlement outlines the importance for employers to abide by statutory protected leaves of absence. Employees in Ontario maya be entitled to damages if an employee is reprimanded against, or their employment was terminated for taking a protected leave of absence.

If you are an employee and have questions about protected leaves of absences in Ontario, please contact us today online or by phone (416) 640 2667.