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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Arthur J. Gallagher Skewered for Glass Ceiling

CHICAGO (CN) - Brokerage giant Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. fired a woman who objected to a teamwork video showing three men holding each others' genitals at a urinal, she claims in Federal Court.

Lori Kleiman says she began working for AJG, one of the largest insurance brokerages in the world, in 2007 after the company bought her human resources company.

"By all accounts, Kleiman's job performance was outstanding," the complaint states. "She consistently met or exceeded her revenue and profitability goals and received 100 percent of her target bonuses throughout her tenure at AJG."

Such success came at a cost, however, with Kleiman saying it brought her face-to-face with systemic gender discrimination at AJG.

During her tenure, all but one of the executive officers of AJG were male, and seven of 73 national branch managers were women, only two of whom managed a branch "of any meaningful size," Kleiman says. These women were also merger partners, not women who were promoted from within the company.

The virtually all-male management team encouraged a corporate culture that excluded women, Kleiman claims.

At a 2011 national company meeting in Las Vegas, for example, "AJG showed a YouTube video of three men standing in front of a urinal, who appeared to be holding each other's genitalia, so one could smoke and one could drink," according to the complaint. "The message of the urinal video was referred by the AJG CFO [chief financial officer] as a representation of 'teamwork'. However, it was apparent from the urinal video that these were 'teams' in which women would not be permitted to participate since the 'teamwork' was occurring in a men's bathroom. In other words, AJG's message was that leadership and teamwork at AJG are a man's job."

After Kleiman complained about the video, AJG allegedly "began to engage in a retaliatory course of conduct," blocking her chances for advancement.

The company also ignored her concerns, and showed portions of the same urinal video at the company's 2013 national meeting, she says.

AJG allegedly gave Kleiman the title "national practice leader" in Human Resources Consulting in 2012, but it was accompanied by no actual authority, and no increase in compensation - unlike men with same title.

Frustrated by being shut out of the executive level, Kleiman sent a May 2013 letter to her supervisor complaining that she felt she had hit a "glass ceiling" at AJG.

"In response to Kleiman's May 22 letter, complaining of the 'glass ceiling,' AJG did not bother to investigate the 'glass ceiling' allegations, but rather, it intentionally misinterpreted her May 22 letter as her resignation," Kleiman says.

When Kleiman discovered the misunderstanding, she swiftly made it clear she was not resigning, but AJG allegedly insisted on accepting her resignation, she says.

Other instances of alleged discrimination at AJG described in the complaint include an instance where the company acquired a business jointly owned by a man and a woman, and then "directed all communication to the male partner." The man alone received invitations to management meetings, according to the complaint.

Further, at the company's 2013 national meeting, each member of the executive team, except the one woman in the group, gave a briefing on his subject area.

"No explanation was offered as to why she did not give a presentation," according to the complaint.

Kleiman seeks back and front pay, plus punitive damages, for sex discrimination and retaliation.

She is represented by Deane Brown with Beermann, Pritikin, Mirabelli, Swerdlove.

AJG reported $3.1 billion in revenue last year, Business Insider reported.

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