After working at the investment bank Jefferies Group for nearly 12 years, Shabari Nayak thought she was on track to become a managing director — especially after bringing her firm $3.75 million in revenue.
But then last year she got pregnant. In a lawsuit filed against the bank on Wednesday, she says everything changed after she announced that she would be having a baby.
Nayak “delayed announcing her pregnancy as late as possible because she feared her career would be derailed,” according to her lawyer Scott Grubin.
Her fears were quickly realized, she alleges. She claims that when she told her direct supervisor of the pregnancy in August of last year, he told her that her “priorities would be changing” after she had her child and offered to help her find a job that was “less demanding,” potentially in the human resources department. She declined, preferring to stay on track for a managing director position.
She got a nearly identical response, she says, when she told the global head of her division. “These two utterly insensitive and demeaning conversations made clear that in the minds of management, Ms. Nayak’s pregnancy had irreversibly changed — if not ended — her investment banking career at the bank,” according to the complaint.
Months later, her supervisors told her she had “taken her foot off the gas pedal,” she claims. Then she says she was denied her year-end bonus, which reduced her overall compensation by nearly 60 percent. Yet she had gotten the bonus the year before when she brought in nearly $1 million less in revenue, while a similar male coworker in her group who hadn’t generated any deal revenue got a “substantial” bonus, according to the complaint.
“Ms. Nayak’s pregnancy had irreversibly changed — if not ended — her investment banking career at the bank.”
“What should have been a most joyous time in her life, as Ms. Nayak welcomed her first child into her family, has been transformed into a demeaning and anxious ordeal by the bank’s discriminatory and retaliatory actions against her that has effectively derailed her personal and professional aspirations,” the complaint says.
Nayak no longer works at the bank, claiming that she was forced to resign while on maternity leave after experiencing the discrimination and watching her complaints go unaddressed.
“No reasonable person should be or could be expected to work in the environment created and fostered at Jefferies,” she said.
Now that she’s gone, she says her group at the investment bank has 32 men and no women in senior vice president or managing director positions.
A Jefferies spokesman said the lawsuit is “entirely without merit,” saying she “voluntarily resigned,” and that it will defend against it.
Pregnancy discrimination is already prohibited by federal law, but it’s still incredibly common. Complaints of pregnancy discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rose 65 percent between 1992 and 2007, outpacing the increase of women in the labor force, and there were more than 3,500 filed just last year.
A number of investment banks have been hit with discrimination lawsuits that depict a male-dominated and testosterone-fueled culture, and pregnancy discrimination comes up a lot. The finance industry was hit with 97 complaints of pregnancy discrimination in 2013. A lawsuit last year filed by Cynthia Terrana against investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald alleged that she was fired just 11 days after she told her manager she was pregnant.
Other lawsuits against Wall Street firms have alleged a “boys club” atmosphere of trips to strip clubs and sexual assaults against female employees that went ignored, the systemic undermining of women’s careers by denying them the most lucrative clients, and repeated sexual harassment that included female employees being pressured to sleep with executives.