Goldman Sachs Group Inc. was hit with a gender bias lawsuit by three women who said Wall Street's most profitable bank maintains an "outdated corporate culture" that systematically deprives women of pay and promotions available to men.
The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status on behalf of women who have worked as Goldman managing directors, vice presidents and associates in the last six years. It seeks punitive and other damages, and an end to gender bias at Goldman.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Manhattan federal court, contends that Goldman managers have unfettered discretion to assign accounts and responsibilities, and decide who gets administrative support and training.
This has resulted in "unchecked gender bias," the lawsuit said, that causes women to be underrepresented in management, at just 14 percent of partners, 17 percent of managing directors and 29 percent of vice presidents.
The policies "are part and parcel of an outdated corporate culture," the complaint said. "Goldman Sachs has intentionally implemented these company-wide policies and practices in order to pay their male employees more money than their female counterparts, and to promote them more frequently."
Goldman denied the allegations.
"This suit is without merit," spokesman Lucas van Praag said in an email. "People are critical to our business, and we make extraordinary efforts to recruit, develop and retain outstanding women professionals."
'WALL STREET DOESN'T GET IT'
The lawsuit was brought by Lisa Parisi, 48; a former managing director in asset management; Cristina Chen-Oster, 39, a former vice president in convertible bonds; and Shanna Orlich, 30, a former associate in trading.
"Wall Street doesn't get it," said Kelly Dermody, a partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP representing the plaintiffs.
"Even as some (women) do crack the glass ceiling, Wall Street continues to pay them less, relegate them to jobs that have less upside potential, and exclude them from important clients and business opportunities," she added.
Large banks and brokerages are regularly the target of U.S. lawsuits alleging discrimination.
IMPROPER SEXUAL ADVANCE ALLEGED
Parisi alleged she was significantly underpaid compared with male colleagues, including a 60 percent drop from 2005 to 2007, and had investments taken away from her despite her skill in stock picking.
Chen-Oster alleged she was repeatedly shunted to lower-paying and lower-priority jobs, and had her accounts taken away after she returned from a maternity leave.
She also said that after a dinner at a topless bar to celebrate a colleague's promotion, an event that all employees in her group were encouraged to attend, a male colleague attempted a sexual act with her. She also contended she was subjected to a sexually charged email by a male colleague that made fun of her Chinese heritage.
Orlich contended in the court papers that she was deprived of work and subjected to greater criticism than male workers. She said she once was kept from a golf outing because she was too "junior" though several male colleagues just out of college attended.
Chen-Oster resigned from Goldman after eight years in 2005, while Parisi and Orlich's jobs were terminated in 2008 after they had worked there since 2001 and 2006, respectively, the lawsuit said. Parisi lives in Georgia, and Chen-Oster and Orlich in New Jersey. They were not immediately available for comment.
The case is Chen-Oster et al v Goldman Sachs & Co et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 10-06950.
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