Earlier this month, Microsoft announced a new Chief Diversity Officer, Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, who worked in the same capacity at IBM before joining Microsoft. Now, IBM has filed a lawsuit against McIntyre, claiming her new role as Microsoft’s chief diversity officer violates a year-long non-compete agreement.
“I can’t figure out why they’re doing it,” said Robert Ottinger, a San Francisco-based employment attorney who has been working non-compete cases for nearly 20 years. “I guess they’re just really angry at Microsoft for taking their HR person,” he said, describing McIntyre as “a pawn” who is “stuck in the middle.”
IBM provided the following statement to GeekWire.
“IBM has a long history of being recognized for leadership in a diverse and inclusive workplace. As IBM’s Chief Diversity Officer, Lindsay-Rae McIntyre was at the center of highly confidential and competitively sensitive information that has fueled IBM’s success in these areas. While we can appreciate Microsoft’s need to deal with mounting criticism of its record on diversity, IBM intends to fully enforce Lindsay-Rae’s non-compete agreement—just like we do with all of our senior leaders—to protect our competitive information.”
“IBM surprisingly seeks a draconian temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent McIntyre from working — for an entire year, in any position, anywhere in the world, for any company IBM deems to be a ‘competitor’ in any dimension,” the attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.
In response to the lawsuit Microsoft said in a statement, “We’re pleased that Lindsey-Rae decided to join Microsoft, both to continue to grow in her career and so she, her husband, and their three young children could be closer to her parents and extended family on the West Coast. We have no interest in any of IBM’s confidential information.”
In a declaration filed with the court, McIntyre said, “For diversity work to be effective, it has to be specific and customized to the company and workforce at issue. My work at Microsoft must be centered on Microsoft’s corporate culture and its internal goals as an organization, which are entirely distinct from IBM’s culture and goals. Similarly, inclusion focuses on what it feels like to belong and is entirely focused on management and culture. Therefore, while the work that IBM (or any other technology company) does on these issues may be interesting, it is not practically useful in my role at Microsoft.”