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Seven current and former African-American employees of


(MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report

have filed a $5 billion lawsuit accusing the computer software maker of racism.

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The plaintiffs, who are from the company's Washington, D.C., and Redmond, Wash., offices, claim they were paid less than co-workers and repeatedly passed over for promotions that were given to less qualified white employees. They also say they were harassed and faced retaliation when they complained.


Microsoft have a plantation mentality when it comes to treating African-American workers," Willie Gary, the Florida lawyer handling the suit, said in a published report.

Microsoft said it has a zero tolerance policy toward discrimination in the workplace and takes allegations very seriously. "Microsoft works actively to recruit, train and promote minority and women employees," the company said in a statement. "Over the past three years, Microsoft's minority work force has grown nearly twice as fast as the company's domestic work force overall. The percentage of minority employees has risen steadily, from 16.8% in 1997, to 22.1% of Microsoft's domestic work force today."

The company said is hasn't had a chance to review the specific complaint filed in a federal court today.

The case, which the plaintiffs are seeking to make a class-action suit, is scheduled to be heard by Thomas Penfield Jackson, the same judge who ordered the company split into two parts last year.