US judge rejects Goldman Sachs' bid to narrow gender bias lawsuit

A Goldman Sachs sign at at NYSE.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

A federal judge on Wednesday rejected Goldman Sachs' bid to dismiss two of the four female plaintiffs in a proposed class-action lawsuit accusing the bank of discriminating against women in pay and promotions.

U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan said former vice president Mary De Luis' claims did not become moot when she resigned last May, after the bank allegedly retaliated for her role in the case by refusing to allow a transfer to Miami from Dallas unless she accepted a demotion.

The judge also said another ex-employee, former vice president Allison Gamba, had standing to pursue her claims even after Goldman left her without a job in August 2014 when it "divested itself" of her department.

Torres said a judge who previously oversaw the 6-1/2-year-old lawsuit misinterpreted a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Wal-Mart Stores Inc v. Dukes, in finding that former employees like De Luis and Gamba who sought "reinstatement" could not sue.

In an email, Goldman said it was "examining the implications of the latest ruling and will continue to contest this matter vigorously."

The plaintiffs accused Goldman of systematically paying women less than men, and giving them weaker performance reviews that impeded their career growth.

Their lawsuit, which began in September 2010, also included allegations that Goldman maintained a "boys' club atmosphere."

This included the use of sexual language, unwanted touching and subjecting women to the "double-edged sword" of being expected to socialize after work with colleagues to advance their careers, it said, but risk being labeled "party girls" if they did.

The other named plaintiffs include former Goldman employees Cristina Chen-Oster and Shanna Orlich, who were a vice president and associate, respectively. A fifth plaintiff agreed to arbitration.

Torres "brought consistency to how the Southern District of New York interprets standing," Kelly Dermody, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in an interview, referring to the Manhattan court. "This had been a big stopping point in the case and all four plaintiffs can seek class-action status."

Class-action certification could let thousands of women sue together, raising the potential for larger awards without excessive legal costs.

The case is Chen-Oster et al v. Goldman Sachs & Co et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 10-06950.