IBM sues Microsoft over hiring of chief diversity officer

IBM is suing Microsoft to enforce a one-year noncompetition agreement after Microsoft moved to hire a former IBM employee as its chief diversity officer, The Seattle Times reports.

On Feb. 11, Microsoft tapped Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, IBM's former chief diversity officer and vice president of leadership succession planning, to serve as chief diversity officer. However, IBM claims Ms. McIntyre holds confidential data related to diversity, strategies and initiatives that can cause "real and immediate competitive harm" if she's allowed to transition  immediately to Microsoft.

While noncompete deals are generally reserved for employees who harness technical or strategic knowledge, rather than those who make decisions on hiring, IBM sued Microsoft over the noncompetition clause.

"[Ms.] McIntyre was at the center of highly confidential and competitively sensitive information that has fueled IBM's success" in diversity and inclusion, the company said in a statement to The Seattle Times. "While we understand Microsoft's need to deal with mounting criticism of its record on diversity, IBM intends to fully enforce Ms. McIntyre's noncompete agreement to protect our competitive information."

Ms. McIntyre's lawyers argue the company is wrongly enforcing an "overboard" policy against an employee who doesn't wield confidential 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," her attorneys responded in court filings, according to The Seattle Times.

U.S. District Judge Vincent Briccetti temporarily halted Ms. McIntyre's transition to Microsoft and scheduled a conference for Feb. 22.

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