CREDIT: AP/Richard Drew
The two former female employees who previously filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against Goldman Sachs are seeking to turn it into a class action suit to make their case on behalf of all female associates and vice presidents at the investment bank, investment management, and securities divisions.
Cristina Chen-Oster, a former vice-president and Shanna Orlich, a former associate, originally filed the lawsuit in 2010. They’ve accused the bank of creating a “boy’s club” atmosphere, including company trips to strip clubs and “female escorts” in Santa hats who were hired for a company event. Female employees were “sexualized or ignored,” according to their filing.
In the original suit, Chen-Oster also claims that after a trip to a topless bar to celebrate a colleague’s promotion, a married coworker insisted on walking her to her boyfriend’s apartment, and in the hallway outside the apartment pinned her against the wall, kissing her and groping her against her will. After she reported what happened, she says she was met with hostility and marginalized, and she eventually resigned.
The women also say that there were significant gender disparities among employees. Female vice presidents made 21 percent less than their male colleagues and female associates made 8 percent less, they claim. They also say that about 23 percent fewer female vice presidents were promoted to managing director compared to the men. Women who went on maternity leave were stripped of their responsibilities when they returned, they say.
The two seek to persuade a judge that their claims are sufficiently similar to others made by female Goldman Sachs employees that they can be combined into one single case. Denise Shelley, who worked as a vice president and left in 2009, has said in a separate court filing, for example, that male employees called women “bimbos” and took clients to strip clubs.
The company has denied the merits of Chen-Oster and Orlich’s case, and in response to the effort to form a class action suit, said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg, “This is a normal and anticipated procedural step for any proposed class action lawsuit and does not change the case’s lack of merit.”
Gender discrimination appears to be rampant at Wall Street firms. Last year Bank of America settled a gender discrimination lawsuit from about 4,800 women who worked at the bank and its subsidiary Merrill Lynch who alleged that the firm gave men the most lucrative clients, undermining the female employees’ pay and opportunities for advancement. Women at Merrill Lynch also accused the company of making them read the book “Seducing the Boys Club: Uncensored Tactics From a Woman at the Top” and following its advice to get ahead.
Any boy’s club atmosphere also likely stems from the fact that there are so few women in finance to begin with. They make up about 35 percent of all employees in investment banking and securities trading. They’re even rarer toward the top, where they make up less than a quarter of all senior officers and less than 18 percent of executive officers in the finance and insurance industries. And they often make less, as six of the jobs with the biggest gender pay gaps are in finance.