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No discrimination in layoffs: Microsoft

world Updated: Mar 05, 2009 00:40 IST
V Krishna
V Krishna
Hindustan Times
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Software giant Microsoft has turned down a senator’s suggestion that it should lay off foreign workers on H-1B visas before letting go of American citizens.

The job cuts the company announced in January will affect both H-1B visa holders and US citizens inside the country, as well as non-Americans employed outside the United States, Microsoft said on Tuesday in a letter to Senator Chuck Grassley.

“The majority of Microsoft’s workforce is made up of US workers, and therefore the majority of jobs eliminated in January were held by US workers. Workers on H-1B visas and other temporary work visas make up only a small percentage of our overall workforce, but they were also among the employees impacted,” the letter written on behalf of CEO Steve Ballmer said.

Microsoft said it did not have all the details Grassley had sought on the cuts, including how many US citizens would lose their jobs, because decisions would be made over 18 months.

“We do know, however, that the 5,000 positions that will be eliminated will include jobs in marketing, sales, finance, legal and corporate affairs, HR, R&D and IT.” Of the 1,400 positions eliminated in January, over 800 were in Washington state, where the company has its headquarters.

“We take care to make all employment decisions — including the termination of employment for any individual — in a manner that complies with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” the letter said.

Microsoft said there would be no change in its policy on H-1B workers. “Although they are a small percentage of our workforce, H-1B workers have long made crucial contributions to Microsoft’s innovation successes and to our ability to help create jobs in this country. We are confident this will continue to be true in the future.

“We focus our recruiting for core technology jobs at US universities.... However, as one recent study found, in 2005 temporary residents earned more than 40 per cent of the engineering and computer science degrees at US higher education institutions. For doctoral degrees, that number was even higher....

“With these factors taken together, we do not expect to see a significant change in the proportion of H-1B employees in our workforce.”

Indians get the largest chunk of H-1B visas. Microsoft is the largest recipient of H-1B visas among American companies.