Goldman Sachs Group Inc. was sued by three former female employees who claim they faced discrimination in pay and fewer opportunities for promotion than men at the firm.
“The violations of its female employees' rights are systemic, are based upon companywide policies and practices, and are the result of unchecked gender bias that pervades Goldman Sachs's corporate culture,” the women said Wednesday in a complaint in federal court in Manhattan.
The plaintiffs, H. Cristina Chen-Oster, a former vice president; Lisa Parisi, a former managing director; and Shanna Orlich, a former associate, seek class-action status to represent all female Goldman employees with those job titles.
The women seek unspecified damages and a court order requiring Goldman Sachs to remedy the “systemic sex discrimination” at the firm, according to the complaint.
“We believe this suit is without merit,” said Lucas van Praag, a Goldman spokesman. “People are critical to our business, and we make extraordinary efforts to recruit, develop and retain outstanding women professionals.”
According to the complaint, the proportion of women among Goldman Sachs managers decreases as their job level increases. The women claim that, according to figures published by Goldman Sachs in 2009, women constituted 29% of vice presidents and 17% of managing directors.
According to 2008 figures, women represented 14% of partners, the plaintiffs claimed. Four members of the 30-person management committee are women, and just one of nine executive officers, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs claim that Goldman Sachs gives its managers, most of whom are men, “unchecked discretion” over assigning responsibilities to their subordinates.
The complaint also says that Goldman Sachs's system for evaluating employee performance is biased against women.
“Men at Goldman Sachs are viewed more favorably, receive more compensation, and are more likely to be promoted,” the ex- Goldman employees claimed.
The former employees are seeking to represent an unspecified number of female associates, vice presidents and managing directors who worked for Goldman Sachs at any time from Sept. 10, 2004, through the resolution of their federal discrimination claims and from July 7, 2002, for claims under New York state law.
Ms. Chen-Oster claimed that in 1999 she told her supervisor about an incident at a firm-sponsored dinner for a male employee who had been promoted to managing director. After the outing, which included a stop at a Manhattan topless bar, a male colleague pinned Ms. Chen-Oster against a wall outside her apartment, kissing and groping her.
Ms. Chen-Oster claimed that, after reporting the incident, she “began to experience increased hostility and marginalization at the firm.”
She resigned in 2005, due to discrimination she claims she suffered in eight years at Goldman Sachs. Ms. Chen-Oster filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and received a notice of right to sue. The other two plaintiffs have also asked for right-to-sue notices from the EEOC, according to the complaint.