Entries in Gender Discrimination (3)


Deutsche Bank Accused of Retaliation After Firing VP Who Sued for Being 'Mommy-Tracked'

Hannelore Foerster/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Deutsche Bank Wednesday got slapped with a retaliation lawsuit after terminating a seasoned vice president who last year sued the bank for gender discrimination, claiming she was "mommy-tracked" for taking maternity leave.

"I worked extremely hard and, as a working mom, I sacrificed so much. I just wanted to be treated equally and no different than my male colleagues," Kelley Voelker told ABC News.

Voelker, now in her mid-40s, was a vice president with the bank's securities lending desk for 14 years. In a still-pending lawsuit filed in September 2011, she claimed that despite consistently high performance reviews, Deutsche Bank denied her a promotion and eventually demoted her, one of its few female vice presidents, solely because of her gender and recent childbirth.

Voelker accused the bank of promoting equally-qualified male candidates while her workplace had a "hostile and degrading" atmosphere towards women. She claimed one of her managers frequently used vulgar sexual language and another took clients to strip clubs.

When Voelker was about to go on maternity leave in 2003 with her first child, she said one superior "expressed his doubts" she would return to the company. Her discrimination lawsuit claimed her supervisors, "never took her seriously because she was a woman starting a family, and this was seen as a huge negative within the company."

In late 2009, when she announced her need to go on maternity leave with her last child, the suit claimed "her exemplary performance was further ignored and her male colleagues ensured her alienation through their actions on and around the trading desk."

When Voelker questioned a decision made by one of her superiors in fall 2009, another executive said, "I'd watch your step -- she's pregnant," the suit claims. In response, her supervisor replied, "No need to tell me. I've got one at home," referring to his pregnant wife.

Another male colleague asked her: "When is your husband gonna get it together so you can stay home with the kids?" Voelker told ABC News.

When she returned from her last maternity leave in May 2010 to a "chilling welcome," according to the suit, a superior in the company "immediately" tried to persuade her to take on a more "flexible" reduced role, a request echoed by "various members of Deutsche Bank management."

In the discrimination suit, she says she voiced "strong objections" to the idea and reiterated her desire for a long-awaited promotion.

Instead, Voelker was terminated a year after filing her 2011 discrimination suit. She was the only member of her 500-person group to be laid off as part a September 2012 "reduction in force," she said.

Wednesday's lawsuit claims Deutsche Bank "has chosen to blatantly retaliate against Ms. Voelker [for filing the 2011 discrimination lawsuit] by firing her after a campaign of behavior by company management to sideline her and induce her resignation."

In a statement to ABC News, a Deutsche Bank spokesman said: "While we take all allegations of discrimination and retaliation very seriously, we will continue to vigorously defend ourselves against these allegations."

"Retaliation is often a much more serious, actionable and provable claim than the underlying discrimination claim," employment law expert Jack Tuckner, who is not involved in this case, told ABC News. And it's the retaliation case that can bring the hefty damage awards, because now she can sue for the compensation she would have received had she not been terminated for alleged discrimination, adds Tuckner.

"We believe that this is a systemic problem at Deutsche Bank based on other cases and discussions with other witnesses," Voelker's attorney Douglas Wigdor told ABC News. Specifically, Wednesday's retaliation suit mentions a 2006 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decision to censure Deutsche Bank for "evidence" of gender discrimination and one NY court's observation in 2003 that "the incommensurate and exceedingly low number of females at senior management levels suggest a glass ceiling for women" at Deutsche Bank.

Voelker said her termination left her "shocked" but that she is "now more determined than ever to see that Deutsche Bank is held accountable for what they did to me and my family."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Senate Democrats Push for ‘Paycheck Fairness’ Bill for Women

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Democrats and the White House put on a coordinated full-court press on Monday, calling on Republicans in the Senate to support a bill called the “Paycheck Fairness Act,” which is billed as an effort to help achieve income parity for women.

The Senate is scheduled to hold a procedural cloture vote on the bill Tuesday, even though it is not expected to get the 60 votes needed to move forward in the Senate without Republican support.

Democrats describe the paycheck fairness bill as “the next step” to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – the first thing President Obama signed into law in 2009. This new bill is meant to bring that law up to date by finalizing and closing loopholes that some say keep women earning less than men for the same work.

“American women are mad as hell,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D- MD., sponsor of the bill, said Monday on a conference call, noting that women still make 77 cents for every dollar that men make for the same job requiring the same set of education. That data comes from a study of 2010 government statistics by a group called the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

The bill will most certainly become an issue for talking points, campaign ads, and election-year messaging which may be part of the Democratic calculus for moving toward the bill now as a narrative in the so-called “war on women.”

Democrats wasted no time to frame Tuesday’s vote in the context of presidential politics, challenging Gov. Mitt Romney to support the measure.

“We urge him to speak out and endorse this legislation ahead of the Senate vote,” Sen. Chuck Schumer. D-NY., said of Romney.

“Today he has refused to take a position on this important proposal. Well the silence is hurting our chances of advancing this legislation in the Senate. Because if he, as the standard-bearer of his party were to endorse this legislation, it would almost certainly cause the Republicans in the Senate to follow his lead and join Democrats to endorse this key reform.”

Discrimination on the basis of sex is already against the law but the Paycheck Fairness Act would require employers to demonstrate that wage gaps between men and women doing the same work have a business justification and are truly a result of factors other than gender. The bill would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Supreme Court to Rule Whether Female Employees Can Sue Walmart

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a case that pits Walmart, the nation's largest private employer, against millions of former and current female employees who allege gender discrimination.

At issue before the court is whether the women can band together as a "class" and bring their case, or whether they must file on an individual basis.

If the court grants the women class certification, it most likely will become the largest employment class action suit in history, potentially involving every female worker employed at the company since 1998.

"The class is larger than the active-duty personnel in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard combined -- making it the largest employment class action in history by several orders of magnitude," said Walmart attorney Theodore J. Boutrous.

The case is being carefully watched by the business community, which fears that it could lead to an increase of similar suits and force big business into premature settlements out of fear of exposure to gigantic monetary awards in the billions of dollars.

The Chamber of Commerce issued a brief on the side of Walmart arguing that the lower court ruling that allowed the case to go forward as a class action, "will likely encourage an avalanche of new class action litigation on a broad array of subject matters, beyond employment issues."

But lawyers for the women said that fears of an avalanche are absurd.

"The reality is that we haven't even had a few snowflakes," said Joseph Sellers, who will argue on behalf of the women on Tuesday.

The district court heard months of evidence in the case and properly found that the women had met the standards of class certification, Sellers added.

Sellers and civil rights groups supporting the women said class action certification is essential to give anti-discrimination laws the force and intent they were meant to have.  They argued that the women, forced to file individually, would have neither the means nor the incentive to bring their case against such a large company.

The case stems from a sexual discrimination suit filed in 2001 by six female employees who alleged they were paid less than men in comparable positions in violation of Title VII, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination.  As word spread, dozens more women joined the suit, and a district court ruled the court could go forward on behalf of all similarly situated women.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio