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From Uber to Magic Leap, numerous firms and individuals within the tech industry have come under fire this year for their treatment of women. Now, a Newsweek report is shining a light on another part of the issue: the increased hiring of sex workers by employees from companies including Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, T-Mobile, Oracle, and local Seattle firms.
Newsweek was able to get hold of several emails sent to brothels and pimps via a public records request to the King County Prosecutor's Office. Dating from between 2014 and 2016, some of the messages come from a 2015 sting operation that ensnared high-level Amazon and Microsoft directors, two of whom have trials set for March.
The emails were sent from official company accounts as a way of proving they didn't come from law enforcement officials. Pimps often asked first-time buyers to prove they were not police by sending an employee email or badge.
Some studies suggest the tech sector contains more users of prostitutes than any other industry; in these cases, the employees were attempting to meet up with trafficked Asian women.
67 of the emails were sent from Microsoft, 63 from Amazon, and dozens more came from some of Seattle's biggest tech companies. A law enforcement source says these represent only a tiny fraction of the business that tech professionals bring to brothels.
A study commissioned by the Department of Justice found Seattle has the fastest-growing sex industry in the United States, with some men spending up to $50,000 a year on prostitutes. Authorities say each trafficked Asian woman, most of whom don't speak English, has sex with between 5 and 15 men each day.
In a statement to Newsweek, Microsoft said it is looking into the matter and will take appropriate action, including the termination of jobs, if it discovers employees have not acted "with integrity" and conducted themselves in a "legal and ethical manner at all times."
Amazon gave a similar statement to the publication: "Amazon's Owner's Manual clearly states that, 'It is against Amazon's policy for any employee or Contingent Worker to engage in any sex buying activities of any kind in Amazon's workplace or in any work-related setting outside of the workplace, such as during business trips, business meetings or business-related social events.' When Amazon suspects that an employee has used company funds or resources to engage in criminal conduct, the company will immediately investigate and take appropriate action up to and including termination. The company may also refer the matter to law enforcement."