Detroit/Seattle — Microsoft counts itself as a leader with policies promoting gender equality and balancing work and life. But whatever progress the technology giant has made with equal-pay and family-friendly initiatives, it is still fighting a lawsuit by women engineers and IT specialists who say they were treated like second-class citizens for years. The women allege the company paid them less than men, stalled career advancement and froze them out following maternity leave. While Microsoft has denied any discrimination, the women assert that the effects of systemic practices are continuing. A federal judge in Seattle will hear arguments on Monday on whether the women can band together as a group of more than 8,630 high-level technical specialists to pursue their bias suit. Class-action status is considered crucial to the success of the lawsuit, allowing the women to pool resources and giving them leverage to force a settlement. Microsoft has made "significant progress" in recent...

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