New York – In the largest sexual-harassment and discrimination lawsuit of its kind against a Wall Street firm, 20 more women have joined four plaintiffs in suing the brokerage Smith Barney.
The lawsuit filed in May, prompted another 20 women from 10 states to come forward with new accusations. The women allege that sexual discrimination and harassment is systemic among male bosses at Smith Barney.
“Discrimination is company-wide at Smith Barney and industry-wide, too,” says Mary Stowell, a Chicago lawyer whose firm is representing the women. “For the most part Wall Street still maintains a 1950’s attitude about women.”
Among the new allegations:
A Smith Barney branch manager in Richmond, Va., once told female workers at a Christmas party he would pay them $100 if they took off their shirts, former broker Mary Ann Cabell says.
A branch manager in Knoxville, Tenn., would say of women in the office that “she needs a good (expletive) and I can give it to her,” former manager Teresa Tedesco says.
Tracy Gibbs says after returning from maternity leave to Smith Barney’s Seattle office, she found out her job had been cut. “I love my daughter to death, but sometimes I look at her and think ‘you cost me my job,’ ” Gibbs says.
Smith Barney spokesman Robert Connor says of the amended suit: “We will defend ourselves vigorously against any claim that (we) systematically allow such behavior.”
A federal judge will decide whether the case can be heard as a class action. Few sexual-harassment and discrimination lawsuits on Wall Street are filed. Instead, most employee-employer disputes are settled in arbitration conducted by industry representatives.
“There’s a real problem with harassment and discrimination in the financial industry,” says Joseph Maya, a New York employee advocacy lawyer. “Hopefully the publicity from this suit will encourage other women to come forward without fear of retribution.”
By Tom Lowry