Two former Goldman Sachs employees are suing the investment bank for gender discrimination. And according to Bloomberg Businessweek, Cristina Chen-Oster and Shanna Orlich have recently filed papers requesting class status. If granted, Goldman Sachs won’t have just one employment lawsuit on its hands, but the cases of thousands of women.
Many people aren’t surprised by the women’s “boy’s club” allegations. This isn’t the first time a major financial institution has come under scrutiny for workplace discrimination charges. But just because behavior is common doesn’t mean it’s legal.
Goldman Sachs denies the allegations. But even if a judge determines that the company did nothing wrong, the lawsuit is still going to cost them money.
What Are the Grounds for a Gender Discrimination Case?
In the United States, there are laws that protect certain groups of employees from workplace discrimination. Under these laws, women can’t be treated differently from their male counterparts simply for being women. (Check out “Employment Discrimination Lawsuits: Case Studies” for more real-world examples.)
But what are the telltale signs of gender discrimination? Take a look:
- Wage discrepancies. Female employees cannot be paid less than their male counterparts for doing similar work. The Goldman Sachs lawsuit alleges that female employees are paid up to 21 percent less than their male colleagues with comparable experience.
- Unfair promotions. Women who qualify for promotions cannot be passed up for advancement simply for being female. Women were promoted “more slowly and more reluctantly than men” at Goldman Sachs, according to the lawsuit.
- Hostile work environments. Workplaces and their culture cannot create an environment that is hostile to women. The Goldman Sachs lawsuit mentions numerous occasions were strip club outings promoted a “boy’s club” atmosphere.
- Punishment for pregnancy. Women cannot be punished or fired for having children. The lawsuit notes that women at Goldman Sachs saw their responsibilities diminished after becoming mothers.
Someone might argue that some of these situations seem hard to prove. For instance, a woman might think she was unfairly passed up for a promotion when really her boss chose a more qualified candidate.
Problems arise when employers cannot support their decisions and when evidence suggests that the only difference between one employee and a promoted employee is gender. Goldman Sachs’s promotion decisions appear opaque to employees. And unless the company has documented proof to substantiate the slow advancement of its female employees, it could be found guilty of gender discrimination.
What Can Small Businesses Do to Avoid Gender Discrimination Lawsuits?
Discrimination lawsuits are not just an issue for big businesses. Even the smallest employers can be accused of gender discrimination. That’s why it’s important for small-business owners to…
- Review employment laws.
- Train employees in workplace discrimination and harassment prevention.
- Create and follow written protocol that actively discourages discriminatory practices.
- Keep documentation for all employment decisions, including hiring, firing, training, and promotions.
For more tips, read “How Small-Business Owners Can Prevent Employee Discrimination Lawsuits.”
Keep in mind that employees can sue you for discrimination even when you’ve taken preventative measures to avoid such claims. That’s why small businesses often carry Employment Practices Liability Insurance. This insurance policy covers the expenses of an employment discrimination lawsuit, including lawyer fees, judgments, and settlements.