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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

        

Microsoft Loses Disability Case 

By Manny Frishberg  

http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,40029,00.html

01:20 PM Nov. 07, 2000 PT

SEATTLE -- The latest "Microsoft Millionaire" on record hasn't worked at the company for more than two years.

Tom Davis, a systems engineer who had worked at Microsoft since 1987 -- and in the software giant's Original Equipment Makers group for more than 5 years -- was diagnosed in 1997 with Hepatitis C, an incurable and potentially fatal liver disease.

A Seattle jury last week awarded Davis $2.3 million for lost wages and benefits, including stock options. The jury found that Microsoft had violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination by not doing enough to help Davis find a job he could do in an ordinary work week.

 

"I was pretty devastated by the response I got," Davis said of his treatment by the company. "Having been at Microsoft for so many years ... I expected that they would help me and take care of me."

His attorney, David Hasbrook of the Bellevue law firm of O'Shea Barnard and Martin, said Davis had been working a 60- to 80-hour work week before coming down with the illness, but his doctors recommended he cut back his hours to avoid fatigue and stress that could imperil his health.

He said Davis kept asking the job recruiter to tell him which jobs could be done in a 40-hour week, but the recruiter would not.

Hasbrook said Microsoft responded, in essence, "There's all these jobs out here at Microsoft -- tell us if you're interested in any of them, apply for them, and then, if you're selected as the final candidate, we will then, and only then, inquire of whether they can meet your medical restrictions of 40 hours a week."

 

Davis described the process as similar to playing a game of Battleship, where he was being told to "go find something hidden, and if you find it we'll tell you."

Matt Pilla, a spokesman for the company, said he could not discuss the specifics of the case since he expected Microsoft to appeal.

"We're really very disappointed with the result," Pilla said. "The law requires the company, or any company, to inform employees of other potential job openings when there is a disability that prevents them from performing their job duties. We did that."

Pilla said Microsoft is proud of its record of "going above and beyond what the law requires in these cases."

He noted that WE magazine -- which he described as "a pretty big magazine in the disabled community" -- gave Microsoft its Golden Ladder Award this year, "which highlights Microsoft as the number-one company in the nation for going beyond the Americans With Disabilities Act, when it comes to accommodating employees with disabilities."

"Obviously, this is an issue that we're very sensitive to and we feel we have a good record on it," Pilla said. "In this case, we just feel that, unfortunately, the outcome wasn't consistent with the facts that were presented in court."

Now that the trial is over, Davis, who has not worked for most of the last three years, said he plans to take care of his health and to "see what the next challenge is out there."

He said he still is interested in working in a technology job.

"I love technology, I hope I always will," Davis said. "I've been in the business for about 20 years. I still have a few good years left."