Wall Street is still rife with sexism and sexual harassment. The stories told by some female veterans of the industry seem almost shockingly unbelievable – and, sadly, the culture is so ingrained that victims of sexual harassment feel it's their duty to deal with it, or just keep quiet so they don't seem like non-team players.
A number of recent high-profile claims point to the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, up to the highest levels of management at the biggest firms.
There was the 2010 suit against Citibank filed by Dorly Hazan-Amir and five other women that claimed male co-workers made sexually explicit comments around her, placed bets on how much weight she would gain during pregnancy, and joked that she could attend industry conferences when she learned how to play golf. She also claimed that she was demoted when she returned from maternity leave.1
In a suit against Goldman Sachs in 2015, one plaintiff claimed that, after a business dinner, she “was sexually assaulted by a married male colleague” and, when she reported it to her supervisors, she, too, was demoted.2
Why would anyone put up with such a hostile work environment in today's world? The truth is that, often, employees feel like it comes with the territory. After all, “How can you move billions of dollars around if you can't take a little workplace hazing?”3 Unfortunately, for women, “hazing” has a different meaning than it does for men. For men, it's a way to be initiated into the group; for women, it's often used as a tool to exclude them from things.
Hence, many victims take the high road, and much of the harassment gets swept under the rug or not reported at all. And, when it is reported, it's very common for the victim to continue to be subject to harassment, sometimes in less overt ways, such as not getting any response to normal business inquiries.
In an industry where wining and dining clients and colleagues is everyday fare, alcohol makes perpetrators feel they have free rein to get physical with their female counterparts. There are stories of:
- Male co-workers groping females' breasts, and one male colleague undoing a female's belt at an industry function.
- Women being slandered, talked about salaciously, or even openly propositioned for sex at work events
- Males following female counterparts to their hotel rooms or calling their room phone.
- Females being asked if they were the “hired help” at work functions.4
- Women even being barred from client dinners because they would “kill the buzz.”5
Then there was the bizarre 2015 case of Hanna Bouveng, who won $18 million in damages against Benjamin Wey, CEO of New York Global Group. When she repudiated his numerous advances, he fired her. Then he published a series of articles on his blog smearing her as a prostitute and drug addict, and even went so far as to visit her hometown in Sweden to threaten her even more.6
Sex discrimination and sexual harassment are prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but sexual harassment laws were really brought to light in the 1990s, when Anita Hill's testimony during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings brought the phrase “sexual harassment” into popular parlance.7 Even in movies such as the recentWolf of Wall Street it's clear that, throughout recent decades, sexual harassment has always been viewed as par for the course.
There are sexual harassment lawyers who have the knowledge and the resources to deal with hostile work environments such as those described above. View more about Barrett & Farahany, LLP's work on sex discrimination cases, and our numerous other areas of practice.
Contact us today to speak with an attorney!