Goldman Sachs' Sexism Lawsuit Is Horrifying, And Straight Out Of 'Wolf Of Wall Street'

When The Wolf of Wall Street premiered last year, it faced a slew of criticism for endorsing the sexist behavior of Wall street bankers — as well as a whole batch of defenders. Now, a new sexual discrimination lawsuit from two former Goldman Sachs employees has just confirmed that the sexual exploits depicted in WoWS could be a little more factual than we realized.

After filing their lawsuit against Goldman Sachs in 2010, Cristina Chen-Oster, a former Goldman Sachs vice president, and Shanna Orlich, a former associate, are currently seeking class-action status on behalf of the thousands of women who've worked at the Wall Street firm since 2002. A copy of the lawsuit, filed in federal court, was made public on Tuesday.

Chen-Oster and Orlich allege that Goldman Sachs violated both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York Human Rights Law by creating a culture of sexual discrimination against female employees. The plaintiffs claim the Wall Street firm not only compensated women 21 percent less than male employees, but also kept women from moving up in the company.

According to the lawsuit, women represented just 27 percent of associates, 21 percent of vice presidents and 17 percent of managing directors. "These numbers are symptomatic of the male-dominated leadership at Goldman even today," the plaintiffs wrote.

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The women who bore the brunt of the discrimination were new mothers, who lost major assignments when they returned from maternity leave. According to the plaintiffs, the treatment of working mothers was so poor that women routinely reported concerns about taking maternity leave:

Goldman views women who have children as less committed to their jobs, and penalizes them for having children by reassigning key accounts, relationships, and roles. ... In a firm where having children is disfavored and carries adverse assumptions about future performance, it is easy to see how Goldman’s invalid performance, compensation, and promotion measurements are a common vehicle to cement and utilize improper stereotypes.

Employee Lisa Albanese alleged that Goldman Sachs removed all her duties during her pregnancy. "I was told that I would be transferred to a department of one person (me) with no advancement opportunities," Albanese wrote. Meanwhile, Chen-Oster wrote that when she returned from her maternity leave, the firm took away all her "meaningful responsibilities and accounts."

Another female Goldman Sachs employee was allegedly denied a promotion to managing director after her maternity leave because her manager said "he would 'be ridiculed'" if he approved of her candidacy.

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But wait, there's more! According to the filing, Goldman Sachs allegedly kept its female employees from advancing through biased work reviews and evaluations:

The common performance evaluation, compensation-setting, and promotion processes are implemented against the backdrop of a gender-biased culture, described below. Predictably, bias informs these processes. As Goldman’s own Americas Diversity Committee has recognized, “[t]he underlying assessment of individuals that feed into the firm’s processes are colored and impacted by gender differences.” For instance, Goldman’s own analyses of 360 Review results show persistent gender differences in how women and men are evaluated. Women consistently score highest on categories like “teamwork,” “diversity,” and “citizenship,” while men score highest on categories that are more traditionally esteemed, such as “technical skills,” “client relationships,” and “execution skills.”

Outside analysts who reviewed the results of Goldman Sachs' performance reviews, including the 360 review and a forced ranking system, found that they failed to meet basic professional standards. The experts also found that women routinely scored significantly lowered on these performance reviews, which then led to less compensation than their male peers.

The plaintiffs are also taking issue with the firm's promotion policies for vice president positions, which do not require any certain performance criteria but considers who would be the best "coach" or "role model." According to the lawsuit, an all-male group of Goldman Sachs managers "promoted 23 percent fewer women than would have been expected if they had been promoted at the same rate as men with the same characteristics."

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Could it get worse? Yes, it gets worse. When it comes to the overall culture of Goldman Sachs, Chen-Oster and Orlich's allegations take us deep within the boy's club that sounds straight out of an episode of Mad Men. There are tales of "business" excursions to strip clubs, sexual harassment and an overall male-dominated culture that sexualizes women without fear of consequence.

In one notable instance, Chen-Oster says that she was sexually harassed by a married male coworker after a Goldman Sachs-sponsored dinner. It's also not uncommon — in fact, it's very common — to hold work events at strip clubs or have work hot tub parties with topless women. One former Goldman Sachs employee wrote in the filing, "In my experience, entertaining clients at strip clubs was considered routine for Goldman in the U.S."

This "boys will be boys" attitude has been running wild for years, and Goldman Sachs has done nothing to correct it, the plaintiffs said. A spokesperson for the firm denied these allegations.