Legal stakes raised against the Goldman Sachs 'boys club'

Two former female employees of Goldman Sachs who allege the bank is an "uncorrected culture of sexual harassment and assault", where women are often paid less and denied promotion, are now seeking class- action status for their lawsuit.

If that status were granted, the women could be allowed to include many more female associates and vice-presidents who worked at Goldman's investment bank, investment management and securities divisions from 2002 in their legal efforts to win unspecified damages and back-pay.

Cristina Chen-Oster, a former vice-president, and Shanna Orlich, a former associate, allege in their lawsuit that Goldman has a "boys club" atmosphere where binge drinking, strip club visits and the sexualization of women are tolerated, and where women fear that complaining to employee relations is a 'career ender'."

Goldman has always denied the women's allegations and is fighting the case, and it did not immediately return calls yesterday seeking any update on their position. It has previously stated: "This is a normal and anticipated procedural step for any proposed class- action lawsuit and does not change the case's lack of merit."

The women allege that at Goldman, female vice-presidents earned 21 per cent less than male counterparts, female associates earned 8 per cent less, and 23 per cent fewer female vice-presidents have been promoted to managing director. "The record overwhelmingly demonstrates that year after year Goldman continues to treat women as second-class employees, permitting a culture of fear and retaliation to flourish rather than fixing known, systemic gender bias," the lawsuit alleges.

"Across the firm, women now comprise only 17 per cent of managing directors and only five of 34 members of the firm's management committee," claims the lawsuit. "Goldman's discriminatory processes do not arise in a vacuum, but instead are shaped by a common culture of gender stereotyping and hostility towards women at the firm."

Large sections of the lawsuit are blacked out and unavailable to the public.

The many allegations include widespread concerns among women at Goldman about gender bias and promotion of male employees, managers accused of misconduct towards women, and the stereotyping of working mothers as "unfit for or uncommitted to their careers".

One woman claims she was denied opportunities to work as a trader, "while a male colleague with no more experience was given a trading seat right away" and then managers "challenged him to do push-ups on the trading floor".

Ms Orlich claims that despite being a golfer while at college, she was not invited to golf outings that her male peers and subordinates attended with managers. "Unsurprisingly in such a culture, work events are held at strip clubs where the sexualisation of women is endorsed and celebrated." The suit claims further: "Goldman has such a strong reputation for this kind of behavior that in 2005 the firm cautioned new associates... that while clients will ask to go to strip clubs, they should merely not 'expense' that entertainment."

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