Protests roll on against ‘worldwide’ racism

(Reuters) – Demonstrators in Rome held their fists in the air and chanted “No Justice! No Peace!” on Sunday, while in London people defying official warnings not to gather lay down outside the U.S. Embassy as part of a rolling, global anti-racism movement.

In Belgium, police fired tear gas and used a water cannon to disperse about a hundred protesters in a central part of Brussels with many African shops and restaurants. Some protesters were subsequently arrested.

They were part of a crowd of about 10,000 who had gathered at the Palace of Justice, many wearing face masks and carrying banners with the phrase “Black Lives Matter – Belgium to Minneapolis”, “I can’t breathe” and “Stop killing black people”.

“Black Lives Matter is not only about police violence. Here, we experience discrimination that other races do not experience. For example, if we start looking for a flat to rent, we have difficulties. Regarding employment, we are disadvantaged. So it’s not only about police violence,” said 25-year-old insurance broker Randy Kayembe.

The second weekend of demonstrations showed the depth of feeling worldwide over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 after a white officer detaining him knelt on his neck. More protests were also planned across the United States.

In London, where tens of thousands gathered, one banner read: “UK guilty too.”

Footage posted on social media showed demonstrators in Bristol in western England cheering as they tore down a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader, and pushed it into a river.

Chaniya La Rose, a 17-year-old student at the London protest with her family, said an end to inequality was long overdue. “It just needs to stop now,” she said. “It shouldn’t have to be this hard to be equal.”

Health minister Matt Hancock had earlier said that joining the Black Lives Matter protests risked contributing to the spread of the coronavirus.

London police chief Cressida Dick said 27 officers had been injured in assaults during protests this week in the city, including 14 on Saturday at the end of a peaceful demonstration.

‘INSTITUTIONAL RACISM’

In Italy, where several thousand people gathered in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo, speakers called out racism at home, in the United States and elsewhere.

U.S. embassies were the focus of protests elsewhere in Europe, with more than 10,000 gathering in the Danish capital Copenhagen, hundreds in Budapest and thousands in Madrid, where they lined the street guarded by police in riot gear.

“I really think we need to finish with the institutional racism that is actually international,” said Gloria Envivas, 24, an English teacher in the Spanish capital.

“It’s not something that is only going on in the USA or in Europe, it’s also worldwide.”

In Thailand, people held an online demonstration on the video platform Zoom, due to restrictions on movement to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“Everyone has hopes, everyone has dreams, everyone bleeds red, you know,” said Natalie Bin Narkprasert, an organiser of the Thai protest.

Like many people around the world, the group observed a silence in memory of Floyd, in this case, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds – the period he was pinned under the officer’s knee – to know “how it feels”.

Other gatherings were due later, including in the United States, where tens of thousands of demonstrators amassed in Washington and other U.S. cities on Saturday.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaux around the world; Writing by Philippa Fletcher and Catherine Evans; Editing by Frances Kerry)

U.S. Supreme Court conservatives lean toward shielding religious schools from suits

By Andrew Chung

(Reuters) – Conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices signaled sympathy on Monday toward a bid by two Catholic elementary schools in California to avoid discrimination lawsuits by former teachers in a case that could make it harder to hold religious institutions liable in employment disputes.

In more than 90 minutes of arguments heard by teleconference due to the coronavirus pandemic, the justices struggled over how courts can determine when a religious entity must face an employee’s civil rights lawsuit and when it is immune because of protections previously recognized by the high court.

Conservative justices asked questions indicating support for shielding the schools from such litigation. Liberal justices seemed to lean toward the teachers. The court has a 5-4 conservative majority. President Donald Trump’s administration sided with the schools.

A ruling favoring of the Catholic schools could strip more than 300,000 lay teachers working in religious schools of employment law protections and could impact industries including nurses in Catholic hospitals, the plaintiffs said.

Teachers Agnes Morrissey-Berru and Kristen Biel accused the schools of firing them due to discrimination. Morrissey-Berru accused her school of age discrimination. Biel accused hers of discrimination based on disability stemming from breast cancer treatment. Biel died last year after a five-year battle with the disease.

At issue is the breadth of a “ministerial exception” that protects religious organizations from employee suits alleging violations of laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employers from discriminating against employees on grounds including sex, race, national origin and religion.

In a 2012 ruling, the Supreme Court recognized the ministerial exception under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom. The exception, meant to prevent government interference with religion, restricts discrimination lawsuits by certain employees if they hold a ministerial role.

The justices in that case left unresolved how to decide when an employee qualifies for this ministerial role, a thorny question that the justices struggled with on Monday.

Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas offered hypothetical examples such as a chemistry teacher who starts class with a “Hail Mary” prayer, a chemistry teacher who is also a nun and a lay teacher who teaches religion.

“I don’t see what standards a secular court would use to determine which of those is an important … religious duty or function,” Thomas said.

Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she found it “very disturbing” if a person could be fired or refused a job for any reason “that has nothing to with religion.”

Morrissey-Berru sued Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Hermosa Beach after being told in 2015, just before her 65th birthday, that her contract would not be renewed. Biel sued St. James School in Torrance after she said she was dismissed when she requested time off to undergo surgery and chemotherapy for her cancer. Her husband has continued the litigation on her behalf.

Both private schools operate under the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Morrissey-Berru and Biel taught their students religion several days a week in addition to secular subjects.

Federal judges concluded that the ministerial exception barred both claims. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently ruled that both lawsuits could proceed.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

Don’t let impact of coronavirus breed hate, urges EU human rights agency

Reuters
By Megan Rowling

BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The global outbreak of coronavirus will impinge on people’s freedom and other human rights but steps must be taken to stop “unacceptable behaviour” including discrimination and racial attacks, said the head of a European human rights watchdog.

Michael O’Flaherty, director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, said he was shocked when a waiter told him the best way to tackle coronavirus would be to stop migrants coming into his country because they have poor hygiene.

He noted other media reports of people being beaten up in the street for looking Chinese and others stopped at airports based on similar prejudices around ethnicity.

“That’s the sort of really worrying fake news-based spreading of hate and distrust which further undermines the ability to be welcoming, inclusive, respectful societies,” the Irish human rights lawyer told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The U.N.’s children’s agency UNICEF on Wednesday also said that fear of the virus was contributing to “unacceptable” discrimination against vulnerable people, including refugees and migrants, and it would “push pack against stigmatisation”.

O’Flaherty said it was necessary for public health responses to limit human rights to stem the coronavirus spread, but warned governments should not “use a sledgehammer to break a nut”.

“It’s about doing just enough to achieve your purpose and not an exaggerated response,” he added.

His Vienna-based agency, which advises EU and national decision makers on human rights issues, is working with teams of researchers across the European Union to prepare a report this month on ways to protect rights in a time of global turmoil.

“I am not saying everything that’s being done there is wrong … but there is an impact: a reduction in the enjoyment of human rights,” he said.

The World Health Organization described the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic on Wednesday, with its chief urging the global community to redouble efforts to contain the outbreak.

As well as curtailing people’s freedom of movement, O’Flaherty said there was bound to be a ripple effect from the virus that has so far infected more than 119,000 people and killed nearly 4,300, according to a Reuters tally.

This would range from poor children being deprived of their main daily meal as schools closed, to gig economy workers being laid off with little access to social welfare, he noted.

In response, some governments – from Britain to Ireland and Spain – have introduced measures to boost social security payments or help small businesses stay afloat.

Governments may also need to tackle price inflation and profiteering from in-demand medicines and equipment like face masks, as well as ensure equal access to any treatments or vaccines that may be developed in future, he added.

Extra care was required to protect marginalised social groups from the virus, such as the homeless and refugees living in crowded conditions without decent shelter or healthcare.

O’Flaherty urged states to cooperate and learn from each other’s experiences while urging the private sector to do its bit, for example, by clamping down on hate speech and fake news on social media or attempts to market false cures.

If dealt with in the right way, the coronavirus epidemic could help Europeans understand the importance of safeguarding human rights for everyone, especially in tough times, he said.

“My feeling is that if we engage this crisis smartly, it can be an opportunity to help promote the sense, across our societies, that human rights is about all of us,” he said

(Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

Fake flyers and face-mask fear: California fights coronavirus discrimination

By Andrew Hay and Maria Caspani

(Reuters) – A flyer in Los Angeles’ Carson area, with a fake seal of the World Health Organization, tells residents to avoid Asian-American businesses like Panda Express because of a coronavirus outbreak. A Los Angeles middle schooler is beaten and hospitalized after students say he is as an Asian-American with coronavirus.

And over 14,000 people sign a petition urging schools in the Alhambra area to close over coronavirus risks, even though there is only one case of the virus in Los Angeles County, with its population of 10.1 million.

These are some of the hoaxes, assaults and rumors Los Angeles authorities spoke out against on Thursday to stamp out anti-Asian bigotry bubbling to the surface in California, where over half of the 15 U.S. coronavirus cases are located.

Bullying and assaults of Asian-Americans are being reported from New York to New Mexico, sparked by unfounded fears that they are somehow linked to a virus that originated in China.

With by far the largest Asian-American population of any U.S. state, officials in California are aggressively trying to get ahead of such hate crimes before they spread.

“We’re not going to stand for hate,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis told reporters, flanked by law enforcement officials. She urged residents to report crimes to a special 211 number.

Existing prejudice against Asians has combined with media images from China to create fears that Asian-Americans are more likely to be virus carriers. The discrimination could get worse given chances the virus may spread in U.S. communities in the weeks and months ahead, said Robin Toma, head of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission.

Face masks commonly warn by Asians to protect against germs or prevent their spread have become a flashpoint, with wearers insulted or attacked out of fears they have the virus, he said at the news conference.

“We need you to step up and speak out when you see it happening to others,” he said.

FACE MASKS A TRIGGER

Anti-Asian sentiment emerged in 2003 during the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, which also originated from China. That was before the emergence of social media platforms like Twitter, where racism, hoaxes and slurs get amplified.

The issue is not isolated to California.

New York City designer Yiheng Yu works in an office where many colleagues have recently returned from China and where she and others wear face masks as a precaution.

On one occasion when she wore a mask outside her office she was accosted by a woman.

“She started yelling, ‘Are you Crazy? Get the heck out of here,” said Yu, 34. “I realized it was because I was wearing a mask.”

Even coughs can provoke fear, said Ron Kim, a New York state assembly member representing a Queens district with a large Asian and Asian-American population.

“I had a staff member who was in the Albany train station and she was coughing a little bit and someone approached her asked if she had the virus,” said Kim, who on Feb. 7 established the Asian American Health Advisory Council to educate New Yorkers about the virus.

“We live in a very fear-driven society as it is, so if we add an extra layer it’s bound to happen, people are going to be ugly,” he added.

Manjusha Kulkarni, head of A3PCON, which represents Los Angeles County’s more than 1.5 million Asian-American and Pacific Islander residents, saw an urgent need for information to separate coronavirus fact from fiction.

“Businesses and restaurateurs have seen a steep decline in their patronage,” Kulkarni said of Asian proprietors. “We only have one case of the coronavirus here in LA.”

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in New Mexico and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler)

Anti-China sentiment spreads along with coronavirus

By Stanley Widianto and Khanh VU

JAKARTA/HANOI (Reuters) – The coronavirus outbreak has stoked a wave of anti-China sentiment around the globe, from shops barring entry to Chinese tourists, online vitriol mocking the country’s exotic meat trade and surprise health checks on foreign workers.

The virus, which originated in China, has spread to more than a dozen countries, many of them in Southeast Asia which has sensitive relations with China amid concerns about Beijing’s vast infrastructure spending and political clout in the region and sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea.

Authorities and schools in Toronto, Canada, were moved to warn against discrimination towards Chinese Canadians, while in Europe there was anecdotal evidence of Chinese residents facing prejudice in the street, and hostile newspaper headlines.

“Orientalist assumptions plus political distrust plus health concerns are a pretty powerful combination,” said Charlotte Setijadi, and anthropologist who teaches at Singapore Management University.

Chinese authorities have said the virus emerged from a market selling illegally traded wildlife, giving rise to widespread social media mocking of China’s demand for exotic delicacies and ingredients for traditional medicine.

“Stop eating bats,” said one Twitter user in Thailand, the top destination for Chinese tourists. “Not surprising that the Chinese are making new diseases,” another Thai user posted alongside a video clip that showed a man eating raw meat.

“Because your country is beginning (to) spread disease…we do not accept to serve the guest from China,” read a sign in English outside the Danang Riverside hotel in the central Vietnamese city of the same name. Authorities later told the hotel to remove the sign, its manager said in a Facebook post.

Vietnam, which was under Chinese occupation centuries ago and contests Beijing’s sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea, has particularly fraught relations with China.

But it is not alone in the region.

Over 60% of respondents to a poll of Southeast Asian officials, academics and other professionals said in a survey this month that they distrusted China. Nearly 40% said they thought China was “a revisionist power and intends to turn Southeast Asia into its sphere of influence”. The survey did not mention the virus.

The Chinese government said it was determined to contain an epidemic it called a “common challenge facing mankind”.

“Prejudice and narrow-minded words are no good at all,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

TRAVEL BANS

Many countries have imposed visa restrictions on travelers from Hubei province – the epicenter of the virus – while some airlines have suspended all direct flights to mainland China.

But this is not enough for hundreds of thousands of people in South Korea and Malaysia who have signed online petitions urging authorities to ban Chinese from visiting their countries.

In an unusual move, Samal Island in the southern Philippines on Thursday banned not just tourists from China but from all countries affected by the coronavirus to the popular beach spot.

China’s boom in outbound tourism has created a pattern of international travel unprecedented in human history and driven the growth of businesses to serve Chinese travelers around the world. From a trickle in the 1980s, Chinese tourist numbers grew to estimates of more than 160 million in 2019.

In France, whose capital Paris is a major draw for Chinese visitors and which has a significant Chinese population, local Asians created a Twitter hashtag #Jenesuispasunvirus (“I am not a virus”) to report abuse, especially in public transport.

Sun Lay Tan, a 41-year-old manager in the creative industries sector, said the man seated next to him in his Paris subway ride changed seat then put a scarf over his mouth.

“That was really shocking,” said Tan, who was born in France of Chinese and Cambodian origin. “I felt really stigmatized”.

(Reporting by Stanley Widianto in Jakarta, Khanh Vu and Phuong Nguyen in Hanoi, Chayut Setboonsarng in Bangkok, Karen Lema in Manila, Thu Thu Aung in Yangon, Joseph Sipalan in Kuala Lumpur and Josh Smith in Seoul; Caroline Pailliez in Paris and Ben Blanchard; Writing by John Geddie in Singapore; Editing by Nick Macfie)

U.S. agency says Walmart likely discriminated against female workers: WSJ

(Reuters) – Walmart Inc likely discriminated against 178 female workers by paying less or denying promotions or both because of their gender, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in memos reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, the newspaper said on Tuesday.

The agency urged Walmart and the women who filed complaints to come to a “just resolution,” which could include a settlement and changes to Walmart’s employment practices, after finding “reasonable cause” to believe there was gender discrimination, the newspaper said.

Walmart is the world’s largest retailer, and according to the newspaper has 1.5 million U.S. employees.

Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesman, said Walmart told the EEOC it was willing to engage in a “conciliatory process,” though in most cases the agency’s reasonable cause findings were “vague and non-specific.”

He also said the cases involved allegations that were more than 15 years old and were “not representative of the positive experiences millions of women have had working at Walmart.”

A lawyer who has acted as a co-counsel for women who filed complaints could not immediately be reached for comment.

In 2011, Walmart convinced the U.S. Supreme Court not to let roughly 1.5 million female workers complaining about pay and promotions sue in a class action, with a majority of justices concluding the women had too little in common to sue as a group.

More than 1,900 women have since pursued cases and filed charges with the EEOC accusing the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer of gender discrimination, the Journal said.

The charges involving the 178 women come from more than 30 states, and it is rare for the EEOC to pursue that many cases against one employer over such a wide geographic area, the newspaper added, citing labor lawyers.

An EEOC spokesman told the newspaper that the agency cannot discuss investigations or the administrative process until litigation is filed.

(Reporting by New York Newsroom; Editing by David Gregorio)

YouTube to remove hateful, supremacist content

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile device users are seen next to a screen projection of Youtube logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

By Paresh Dave

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – YouTube said on Wednesday it would remove videos that deny the Holocaust and other “well-documented violent events,” a major reversal in policy as it fights criticism that it provides a platform to hate speech and harassment.

The streaming service, owned by Alphabet Inc’s Google, also said it would remove videos that glorify Nazi ideology or that promote groups that claim superiority to others to justify several forms of discrimination.

In addition, video creators that repeatedly brush up against YouTube’s hate speech policies, even without violating them, will now have their accounts shut down, a spokesman said.

In a blog post, YouTube acknowledged the new policies could hurt researchers who seek out these videos “to understand hate in order to combat it.” The policies also could frustrate free speech advocates who say hate speech should not be censored.

Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, which researches anti-Semitism, said it had provided input to YouTube on the policy change.

“While this is an important step forward, this move alone is insufficient and must be followed by many more changes from YouTube and other tech companies to adequately counter the scourge of online hate and extremism,” Greenblatt said in a statement.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Additional reporting by Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru; Editing by James Emmanuel and Bernadette Baum)

‘Good old boy network’ dominates FBI academy, lawsuit claims

FILE PHOTO: FBI headquarters building in Washington, U.S., December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

(Reuters) – Sixteen women filed a lawsuit against the FBI on Wednesday, claiming sexual discrimination and accusing it of running “a good old boy network” in its training program.

Male instructors exposed the former recruits to a hostile work environment, sexual harassment and inappropriate jokes, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in federal district court in Washington.

Seven of the women still work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and some did not use their full names in the suit, fearing retaliation, according to a court filing.

According to the suit, the bureau’s instructors are mostly men and they penalized and dismissed female trainees at a significantly higher rate than male trainees.

Some of the litigants accused the instructors of making inappropriate jokes and making multiple sexual advances on at least one of the female trainees.

The lawsuit asked that the bureau review its training evaluation process, pay $300,000 to each of the women for emotional stress, and that it hire more female instructors.

The FBI said in a statement to the New York Times, which first reported the lawsuit, that it was “committed to fostering a work environment where all of our employees are valued and respected.”

A representative for the bureau could not be reached early on Thursday by Reuters.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Nick Macfie)

‘Makes me shake with rage’: Japan probe shows university cut women’s test scores

Tetsuo Yukioka (L), Managing Director of Tokyo Medical University and Keisuke Miyazawa, Vice-President of Tokyo Medical University, bow as they attend a news conference in Tokyo, Japan August 7, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – A Japanese medical school deliberately cut women’s entrance test scores for at least a decade, an investigation panel said on Tuesday, calling it a “very serious” instance of discrimination, but school officials denied having known of the manipulations.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made a priority of creating a society “where women can shine”, but women in Japan still face an uphill battle in employment and face hurdles returning to work after childbirth, a factor behind a falling birthrate.

The alterations were uncovered in an internal investigation of a graft accusation this spring regarding the entrance exam for Tokyo Medical University, sparking protests and anger.

Lawyers investigating bribery accusations in the admission of the son of a senior education ministry official said they concluded that his score, and those of several other men, were boosted “unfairly” – by as much as 49 points, in one case.

They also concluded that scores were manipulated to give men more points than women and thus hold down the number of women admitted since school officials felt they were more likely to quit the profession after having children, or for other reasons.

“This incident is really regrettable – by deceptive recruitment procedures, they sought to delude the test takers, their families, school officials and society as a whole,” lawyer Kenji Nakai told a news conference.

“Factors suggesting very serious discrimination against women was also part of it,” added Nakai, one of the external lawyers the university hired to investigate the incident.

The investigation showed that the scores of men, including those reappearing after failing once or twice, were raised, while those of all women, and men who had failed the test at least three times, were not.

The lawyers said they did not know how many women had been affected, but it appeared that women’s test scores had been affected going back at least a decade.

At a news conference, senior school officials bowed and apologized, pledging to “sincerely” consider their response, such as possible compensation. However, they said they had been unaware of the manipulation.

“Society is changing rapidly and we need to respond to that and any organization that fails to utilize women will grow weak,” said Tetsuo Yukioka, the school’s executive regent and chair of its diversity promotion panel.

“I guess that thinking had not been absorbed.”

No immediate comment was available from the government or the education ministry official who figures in the case.

Entrance exam discrimination against women was “absolutely unacceptable”, Education Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters last week.

Reports of the incident set off a furor in which women recounted their own experiences of discrimination on social media with the hashtag, “It’s okay to be angry about sexism.”

Some referred to the potential costs exacted in a rapidly aging society.

“I’m 29 and will probably never get married,” said one poster.

“Women are pitied if they don’t, but Japanese women who are married and working and have kids end up sleeping less than anybody in the world. To now hear that even our skills are suppressed makes me shake with rage.”

Another said, “I ignored my parents, who said women don’t belong in academia, and got into the best university in Japan. But in job interviews, I’m told ‘If you were a man, we’d hire you right away.’

“My enemy wasn’t my parents, but all society itself.”

(Reporting by Elaine Lies, additional reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Microsoft women filed 238 discrimination and harassment complaints

The Microsoft logo is shown on the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo - RC177D20CF10

By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Women at Microsoft Corp working in U.S.-based technical jobs filed 238 internal complaints about gender discrimination or sexual harassment between 2010 and 2016, according to court filings made public on Monday.

The figure was cited by plaintiffs suing Microsoft for systematically denying pay raises or promotions to women at the world’s largest software company. Microsoft denies it had any such policy.

The lawsuit, filed in Seattle federal court in 2015, is attracting wider attention after a series of powerful men have left or been fired from their jobs in entertainment, the media and politics for sexual misconduct.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys are pushing to proceed as a class action lawsuit, which could cover more than 8,000 women.

More details about Microsoft’s human resources practices were made public on Monday in legal filings submitted as part of that process.

The two sides are exchanging documents ahead of trial, which has not been scheduled.

Out of 118 gender discrimination complaints filed by women at Microsoft, only one was deemed “founded” by the company, according to the unsealed court filings.

Attorneys for the women described the number of complaints as “shocking” in the court filings, and said the response by Microsoft’s investigations team was “lackluster.”

Companies generally keep information about internal discrimination complaints private, making it unclear how the number of complaints at Microsoft compares to those at its competitors.

In a statement on Tuesday, Microsoft said it had a robust system to investigate concerns raised by its employees, and that it wanted them to speak up.

Microsoft budgets more than $55 million a year to promote diversity and inclusion, it said in court filings. The company had about 74,000 U.S. employees at the end of 2017.

Microsoft said the plaintiffs cannot cite one example of a pay or promotion problem in which Microsoft’s investigations team should have found a violation of company policy but did not.

U.S. District Judge James Robart has not yet ruled on the plaintiffs’ request for class action status.

A Reuters review of federal lawsuits filed between 2006 and 2016 revealed hundreds containing sexual harassment allegations where companies used common civil litigation tactics to keep potentially damning information under wraps.

Microsoft had argued that the number of womens’ human resources complaints should be secret because publicizing the outcomes could deter employees from reporting future abuses.

A court-appointed official found that scenario “far too remote a competitive or business harm” to justify keeping the information sealed.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Additional reporting by Salvador Rodriguez; Editing by Bill Rigby, Edwina Gibbs and Bernadette Baum)