Goldman Sachs Faces Class Action Suit Over Alleged Gender Discrimination

Goldman Sachs Faces Class Action Suit Over Alleged Gender Discrimination

Goldman Sachs has joined the ranks of high-profile employers hit with major litigation over allegations of gender bias in pay, promotions, and performance reviews. On Friday, a federal judge in New York certified the eight-year-old case as a class action lawsuit, ruling that women who believed the investment bank had discriminated against them on the basis of their gender could pursue their claims as a group, Reuters reported.

US District Judge Analisa Torres ruled that employees and former employees could participate in the suit if they had worked as associates or vice presidents in Goldman’s investment banking, investment management, and securities divisions since September 2004, or since July 2002 for employees in New York City. Plaintiffs’ attorney Kelly Dermody told Reuters that the certified class encompassed an estimated 2,000 people.

This lawsuit is one of several brought against major financial firms over the past decade alleging gender discrimination in this male-dominated sector, where women make up about half the workforce but only a quarter of senior-level positions. Gender pay data from the UK shows that the world’s leading banks have substantial gender pay gaps, owing to the much lower representation of women in senior roles with higher earning and bonus potential—a deliberate imbalance, the litigants in these suits claim. A study last year also found that women in finance are routinely punished more harshly than their male colleagues for misconduct, even when that misconduct is less costly and less likely to be repeated.

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Lawsuit Presses Trump Administration on Decision to Halt Pay Data Collection

Lawsuit Presses Trump Administration on Decision to Halt Pay Data Collection

Two civil rights groups are suing the Trump administration for documents regarding its decision to halt a rule proposed under the Obama administration that would have required businesses to submit payroll data to the government to identify gender-based and racial pay inequities, The Hill reported on Wednesday:

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) filed a lawsuit against the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The 15-page complaint alleges OMB violated the Freedom of Information Act when it failed to respond to five requests the groups sent in September for records on the agency’s decision to shut down the pay data collection rule.

The rule, proposed by former President Barack Obama in 2016, would require organizations with more than 100 employees to submit summary pay data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission each year showing what employees of each gender, race, and ethnicity earn. The rationale behind the regulation was that it would help the EEOC identify discriminatory pay practices and discourage companies from engaging in them.

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Venture Capital Firms Band Together to Take On Sexual Harassment

Venture Capital Firms Band Together to Take On Sexual Harassment

Around 40 venture capital firms have joined a new project called MovingForward, which “gathers VC commitments to foster a diverse, inclusive, and harassment-free workplace.” Participating venture firms are sharing their own policies against sexual harassment and discrimination, contact points for entrepreneurs to ask questions and report problems, and statements on their efforts to combat harassment and promote diversity and inclusion.

Although not all the participating firms are making both their internal and external policies public, Recode’s Theodore Schleifer reports, the creators of the initiative say they have encouraged several VCs that did not have anti-harassment policies to create them:

Most venture capital funds do not have human resources departments, and even if they have an internal policy that defines and punishes harassment, it generally has only applied internally to their firm — not to the entrepreneurs that they interview and fund. …

“This effort has created a movement within the VC partnerships to do something,” [co-creator Cheryl] Yeoh said, telling Recode that she believed she has set off a “scramble” within venture capital firms to craft policies or identify a contact. She claimed that around half of the firms did not have policies applying to entrepreneurs or publicly identified points of contact before she pitched them.

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Could Google’s Good Reputation Backfire in Discrimination Suits?

Could Google’s Good Reputation Backfire in Discrimination Suits?

Google is widely recognized as a good company to work for, offering competitive compensation, world-class benefits, and ample opportunities for learning and career development. Among large employers, Google ranked fifth in the US and took the #1 spot in the UK on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list for 2018, based on thousands of employee reviews.

In the age of HR as PR, a reputation like Google’s is more valuable than ever. On the other hand, the tech giant has also been at the center of several controversies in the past year concerning diversity, inclusion, and discrimination in the tech sector, including allegations from the US Department of Labor that it engaged in gender pay discrimination and a lawsuit by several former employees also claiming that the company systematically discriminated against women in pay and career development. (Google is not alone among tech employers in this regard; Microsoft is also facing a number of gender discrimination claims.)

In this instance, Google’s prestige could turn into a liability, business professors Mary-Hunter McDonnell and Brayden King explain at Quartz. That’s because of a phenomenon McDonnell and King found in their research that they call the “halo tax,” in which companies with good reputations are punished more severely when they are found liable for employment discrimination:

Using a unique database of more than 500 employment discrimination lawsuits between 1998 and 2008, we concluded that the greater the company’s prestige, the less likely it would be found liable because of the halo effect. However, once a prestigious company was found liable, punishments were more severe, which shows that prestige can be both a benefit and a liability, depending on whether a company is defending itself or its blameworthiness has been firmly established.

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Most UK Employers Expect Women Candidates to Disclose Pregnancy

Most UK Employers Expect Women Candidates to Disclose Pregnancy

A recent survey by the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission found that 59 percent of employers believe a woman should have to disclose whether she is pregnant to her prospective employer while being considered for a position, while 46 percent believe it is reasonable to ask if they have young children and 44 percent said women should work for an organization for at least a year before deciding to have children, Personnel Today’s Rob Moss reported last week:

The EHRC research, conducted in autumn 2017 by YouGov, also found that:

  • 44% of employers believe that women who have had more than one pregnancy while in the same job can be a “burden” to their team
  • 41% say that pregnancy in the workplace puts “an unnecessary cost burden” on the workplace
  • 40% of employers claim to have seen at least one pregnant woman in their workplace “take advantage” of their pregnancy
  • 32% believe women who become pregnant and new mothers in work are “generally less interested in career progression” than other employees.

Surprisingly, most HR decision makers share some of the sentiment of the wider survey sample.

These assumptions and sentiments are exactly the reason why women shouldn’t have to disclose if they are pregnant in an interview or at any point during recruitment. I understand the desire to control for all factors in recruiting, but if sentiments such as these lead to fewer women being hired, than this is perpetuating the problem of discrimination against pregnant women and mothers, based on the erroneous assumption that hiring mothers will have a negative impact on business.

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US Court: Civil Rights Act Protects LGBT Employees from Discrimination

US Court: Civil Rights Act Protects LGBT Employees from Discrimination

A skydiving instructor who was fired after disclosing to a client that he was gay had a valid discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled on Monday, finding that the protection against sex discrimination prohibited under Title VII was also applicable to sexual orientation. The suit brought by Donald Zarda, who died in a skydiving accident in 2014, had been dismissed last April by a three-judge panel, who cited a previous ruling from 2000 in which the Second Circuit held that Title VII did not apply to LGBT workers, but the court agreed to an en banc rehearing by all 13 judges, who decided 10–3 to reverse the panel’s decision.

In the opinion, written by Chief Judge Robert Katzmann, the court reasoned that “sexual orientation discrimination is motivated, at least in part, by sex and is thus a subset of sex discrimination”:

Because one cannot fully define a person’s sexual orientation without identifying his or her sex, sexual orientation is a function of sex. Indeed sexual orientation is doubly delineated by sex because it is a function of both a person’s sex and the sex of those to whom he or she is attracted. Logically, because sexual orientation is a function of sex and sex is a protected characteristic under Title VII, it follows that sexual orientation is also protected.

Katzmann advanced several additional arguments to underscore the court’s reasoning here: First, he used a “comparative test” that examined how Zarda’s employer would have responded if he were a woman and had he disclosed, as he did, that he was sexually attracted to men. Because he presumably would not have been fired in that case, his treatment depended on the variable of sex and thus, in the court’s view, constituted sex discrimination. He also pointed to Supreme Court precedent finding that Title VII protects employees from punishment for failing to conform to gender norms or stereotypes. Because homosexuality “represents the ultimate case of failure to conform to gender stereotypes,” Katzmann argued, discrimination on this basis constituted sex stereotyping, which Title VII prohibits.

Lastly, Katzmann deployed what Slate‘s Mark Joseph Stern describes as “perhaps the most persuasive theory of the case, the Loving principle”:

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White House Reviewing EEOC Harassment Protections for LGBT Workers

White House Reviewing EEOC Harassment Protections for LGBT Workers

The White House is reviewing guidelines proposed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the waning days of the Obama administration to extend the commission’s interpretation of sex-based harassment to include actions based on gender identity and sexual orientation, Lydia Wheeler reports at the Hill. The unusual move has raised fears among civil rights advocates that it represents another effort by the Trump administration to roll back regulatory protections the previous administration sought to provide to LGBT employees:

The language is at odds with the way Cabinet officials in the Trump administration have viewed and carried out the laws governing discrimination, which can include harassment, when it comes to LGBT people. And that’s why civil rights advocates and a former commissioner fear it won’t be approved. …

What’s unusual, former EEOC Commissioner Jenny Yang said, is that the guidance is under review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and has been since November. Yang, who left the EEOC on Jan. 3, said the proposal is sub-regulatory guidance, which is not typically reviewed by the White House because it’s only an expression of the agency’s policy.

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