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IBM Sues Microsoft’s New Diversity Chief for Violating Non-Compete
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Photo courtesy of Reuters.

Summary: The lawsuit between IBM and a former executive who left them for Microsoft has some employment attorneys perplexed. 

IBM sued a former human resources executive for taking a job at Microsoft, and now the lawsuit is raising questions about non-compete clauses in employment agreements.

  
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According to Geekwire, IBM filed a lawsuit against its former HR vice president and chief diversity officer, Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, earlier this week. The tech company said that McIntyre violated the non-compete clause of their employment agreement, which prohibits her from working for a competitor within one year of her departure.

While non-compete agreements are common in the tech industry, they are usually reserved for engineers or others who create intellectual property. According to Geek Wire, “it’s unusual for a company to enforce them over a role that isn’t tied to its core product or business.”

IBM’s decision has perplexed some employment lawyers who see the company’s move as more spiteful towards a competitor and former employee than protective of their business.

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“I can’t figure out why they’re doing it,” employment attorney Robert Ottinger told Geekwire. “I guess they’re just really angry at Microsoft for taking their HR person.”

Ottinger said McIntyre appears to be a “pawn” in the two company’s war with each other, and he said that he has never seen a HR professional sued for violating a non-compete.



Michael Schutzler, CEO of the Washington Technology Industry Association, told Geekwire he was not surprised by the lawsuit, however.

“In our industry, the number one challenge is recruiting and developing the talent needed to fill the jobs we create,” Schutzler said.

McIntyre worked in human resources at IBM for over 20 years before she left the company for competitor, Microsoft, who announced this weekend her new role as chief diversity officer. In its lawsuit, IBM said that McIntyre knows confidential IBM information such as diversity data and personnel strategies and that could create “immediate competitive harm.”

“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 told Geekwire.

Geekwire stated that IBM’s lawsuit highlights the growing need for diversity in the tech industry and how aggressive companies will get to increase the numbers of women and people of color in their ranks.

What do you think of IBM’s lawsuit? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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