Seven current and former Microsoft Corp. employees are planning to sue the computer software maker for discrimination, citing racial bias, the plaintiffs' lawyers said.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday, asks for $5 billion, the lawyers said in a statement. This is the second bias suit against the Redmond, Wash.-based company in the past three months.
The plaintiffs include four employees based in Washington, D.C., and three more in Washington state. The complaint alleges discrimination in evaluations, compensation, promotions, wrongful termination and retaliation.
Microsoft's last notable case in the Washington federal court was the antitrust lawsuit filed by the Justice Department and several states in which District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ordered the company split in two. That case is under appeal.
Microsoft spokeswoman Ginny Terzano said Tuesday evening that she had not seen the lawsuit, but that her company was committed to diversity.
"Under no circumstances does Microsoft tolerate discrimination in any of its employment practices. We take any allegations of discrimination very seriously," Terzano told CBS News.
Microsoft spokesman Dean Katz said Tuesday that he had not seen the lawsuit, but that Microsoft is "committed to treating all of our employees fairly."
Katz said blacks make up 2.7 percent of Microsoft's domestic work force, but all minorities comprise 22.7 percent of the company's workers.
"We're pleased with the progress we've made in increasing the number of minorities working at Microsoft. That said, there are still a number of things we can do to stimulate interest among minorities in the technical fields," he said, citing the nearly $100 million in grants Microsoft has given to organizations to stimulate interest in tech jobs among women and minorities.
The lawsuit, to be filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges in 1999 that the software giant employed:
The firm of Willie E. Gary, the Florida lawyer who brought the suit, did not return a call seeking details Tuesday. The law firm's Web site recommends visitors use Microsoft Internet Explorer to browse its pages.
In October, a lawyer representing a black female plaintiff filed a suit against Microsoft claiming racial and gender bias. That suit, which also requested an injunction against further discrimination by Microsoft, is still pending and is seeking class-action status.
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