Sex-Bias Class Action Certified Against Goldman Sachs

MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal judge has paved the way for high-ranking women at Goldman Sachs to fight the bank on long-running gender-discrimination claims as a class.

Though lead plaintiff H. Cristina Chen-Oster first filed the suit in 2010, accusing a manager of sexual assault, her attorney Adam Klein, of the firm Outten Golden, noted in a phone interview that the allegations date back even further, to 2005.

Chen-Oster had been a vice president of the securities division of Goldman Sachs at the time. Together with colleagues Shanna Orlich, Lisa Parisi, Allison Gamba and Mary De Luis, they painted the bank as a boy’s club, where holiday parties featured female escorts “wearing short black skirts, strapless tops, and Santa hats.”

Chen-Oster’s bid to represent similarly situated employees took a hit in 2011, however, after the Supreme Court decertified the enormous class action Wal-Mart v. Dukes.

Though this 5-4 ruling raised the bar for plaintiffs to show commonality, U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres found that Chen-Oster and her former colleagues had met that burden enough to force a trial as a single class.

“It would be nonsensical to disaggregate the claims into hundreds or thousands of individual proceedings,” the 49-page ruling. “Doing so would only waste ‘time, effort, and expense’ and increase the likelihood of conflicting outcomes for plaintiffs.”

Though dated March 30, the ruling was only made public Monday morning.

“She was absolutely thrilled,” attorney Klein said of Chen-Oster.

“I think it’s great to have a resolution,” Klein added.

While the question of whether Goldman Sachs ran a “boy’s club” will have to wait another day, Judge Torres set the stage for a trial on disparate-impact and disparate-treatment discrimination.

She noted that the boys’ club question would likely require the court “to make individualized inquiries into each incident of sexual assault, sexual harassment, stereotyping, impunity for male misconduct, and retaliation, to properly consider Goldman Sachs’ defenses.”

“As a result, the balance between common and individual issues would shift,” Torres added. “Individual issues would predominate. … The court concludes, therefore, that plaintiffs have not satisfied the predominance requirements on their ‘boy’s club’ disparate treatment claim.”

Attorney Klein noted that the trial could begin as early as next year.

“We are pleased that the judge agreed with our position that are clients should be entitled to go to trial on the class claims in the case,” he said.

Goldman Sachs attorney Neal Mollen, from the Washington-based firm Paul Hastings, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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