MANHATTAN (CN) – A “senior specialist” claims that after she told Merrill Lynch that a director had raped her, the company merely put him on paid leave and planned to have him return to work 10 feet away from her. She says Merrill Lynch did not correct its hostile attitude toward women even after the director was “arrested for rape,” “indicted for rape by a New York County Grand Jury,” and “pled guilty to the crime of Coercion in the Second Degree in satisfaction of the rape charge.”
The plaintiff, a senior specialist, says Merrill Lynch’s dismissive and threatening attitude toward female employees is part of pattern at Merrill Lynch.
Kenneth Kim, a Merrill Lynch director, “raped the plaintiff” after a meeting at P.J. Clarke’s – a bar on the ground-level of the Merrill Lynch office building that employees used “as an extension of the workplace,” according to the complaint.
She says that “Director Kim admitted, under oath, that … he had compelled the plaintiff to engage in conduct against her will by instilling in her the fear that if she did not comply with his demand, he would cause her physical injury.”
According to the complaint, “The bar ‘event’ was the only opportunity extended to these subordinate Merrill Lynch employees to meet with managing director [Brent] Clapacs, which meeting was recognized by all in plaintiff’s office to be an important networking-career opportunity.”
After she reported the rape to her supervisors and went on medical leave, she says Merrill Lynch did not investigate the workplace environment or Kim’s conduct. She claims the company’s legal counsel claimed that Kim and his colleagues were “perfect gentlemen.”
She adds: “After her rape, Samuel Kim, of Merrill Lynch’s Korea Sales Desk, no relation to Director Kim, but his close friend, emailed the plaintiff twice, using two Merrill Lynch-supported email accounts, urging her to contact Director Kim directly. These activities by Samuel Kim represented intimidation and harassment. Upon information and belief, these contracts were instigated by Director Kim, and constitute acts of retaliation by the defendants’ male employees.”
The complaint adds: “Merrill Lynch, in response to the plaintiff’s filing a complaint with the EEOC, conducted a cursory, incomplete, and self-serving investigation, failed to take any corrective action, or develop any plan, to permit the plaintiff to return to work without fear of director Kim’s return, or reprisals by him and his fellow male employees,” according to the complaint.
Merrill Lynch gave Kim paid administrative leave and planned for him to return to work at his desk, which is 10 feet away from her desk, she says.
“Throughout the time the plaintiff was employed by Merrill Lynch, the plaintiff and other members of the female support staff, were regularly, and openly, subjected to inappropriate comments and sexually suggestive remarks about their dress and attire by male employees, all of whom occupy senior positions to these women,” according to the complaint.
She claims that one managing director was promoted to head of the Asia research sales desk after he was reported to have assaulted a female subordinate by grabbing her buttocks at a business conference in front of clients and other employees.
Male employees also use constant profanity, including the C-word, the woman claims.
“This profane language was expressed out loud, in outbursts, with the knowledge and apparent authorization of supervisory personnel,” according to the complaint. “It defined the workplace, and rendered it, hostile and abusive.”
She says she often endured sexually suggestive comments from her male supervisors and from vendors in the food service area who made daily, open sexual remarks. Other employees do nothing to discourage inappropriate comments that they overhear, or they discard the remarks by saying, “It was a joke,” according to the complaint.
The plaintiff says Merrill Lynch also owes her overtime pay, which the company tries to avoid by improperly classifying employees in her class as “exempt.”
“The defendants have failed to play the plaintiff, and the other female senior specialists, overtime, and properly classify these female employees, in order to deny them the right to collect overtime,” according to the complaint. “At the same time, the defendants uniformly employ men in positions as brokers, traders, and analysts, in order to compensate them with higher earnings and bonuses.”
She sued Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith and Bank of America, which bought Merrill Lynch in 2009, for civil rights violations and sexual discrimination. She seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, lost pay, benefits, overtime, and compensatory and punitive damages. She is represented by Patricia Dempsey with Ciarelli & Dempsey.