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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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."