Microsoft worker denied paid leave for brain surgery



Posted on April 20, 2011 at 6:45 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 20 at 6:54 PM

REDMOND, Wash. -- Minutes after Ken Knightley was diagnosed with a brain tumor last December, the Microsoft manager went straight to a work meeting.

"It's our culture," he said. "We do what we need to do to get the job done."

Now, that culture is in question.

Next Friday, Knightley, a 44-year-old father of two, is having brain surgery to stop the debilitating headaches associated with his tumor. But, Microsoft is refusing to pay him during his three month short term disability leave.

"It's like you just kicked my husband in the gut when he is down," said Teresa Knightley, Ken's wife. "It's not fair."

Knightley has worked for Microsoft for 11 years, the last five years as a full-time manager for X-Box Live.

Ken says the time he missed from work when he first experienced his symptoms put him behind on his projects, earning him a substandard performance review by his boss for the first time ever.

Microsoft links disability pay to performance reviews.  Knightley says that one review, despite years of positive appraisals, is keeping him from getting his pay.

"The company's values that they say we're supposed to exhibit, and that are supposed to exist in our policies, they don't translate," he said.

Many at Microsoft believe the policy is an attempt by the company to protect itself from workers who get an unfavorable review and then falsely claim stress or depression and cheat the company out of three months of paid medical leave while they look for another job.

Sources confirm that is the reason for the policy.

The Knightleys say the policy punishes those it should be protecting. With two kids in college and a mortgage, they worry that if Ken's condition worsens, long term disability doesn't kick in for three more months. That means six months without a paycheck.

"We would lose this house," says Ken. "There's no question in my mind."

Questions remain about how this will play out for Ken, but he is certain he doesn't want another Microsoft worker to suffer the way he is.

"I'll take the hit. I'll take the punishment right now," he said. "But we need to fix it for the next guy."

Microsoft refused comment Wednesday, saying it does not discuss personnel issues.