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Goldman Sex Bias Suit Shouldn't Lose Class Claims: Judge

Law360 - Elizabeth Bowen

A federal magistrate judge last week recommended denying Goldman Sachs & Co.'s bid to strike classwide allegations from a gender discrimination lawsuit, rebuffing the financial giant's argument that a named plaintiff had failed to exhaust administrative remedies for the class.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV issued a report and recommendation Sept. 29 urging a New York federal judge to reject Goldman's assertions that class claims should be nixed because plaintiff Christina Chen-Oster's submissions to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission only contained facts relevant to her circumstances.

Chen-Oster, along with Shanna Orlich and Lisa Parisi, filed the case against Goldman in September 2010, alleging the investment firm paid female employees less than their male co-workers and gave them fewer promotions, and that it engaged in a slew of discriminatory practices that were “part and parcel of an outdated corporate culture.”

They are seeking to bring claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and New York state law on behalf of a class of all female financial services employees who are at the associate, vice president and managing director corporate level at Goldman.

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Among other claims of a pattern of discrimination at Goldman, Chen-Oster alleges the firm retaliated against her after she reported harassment by a male colleague that occurred after a company-sponsored celebration at a topless bar, and that she was marginalized in her department after taking maternity leave.

“Here, Goldman ... contends that, notwithstanding a plaintiff’s explicit assertion in her administrative charge that she is bringing her claims on behalf of others similarly situated, she has not exhausted class claims if, in substance, the administrative charge and the ensuing EEOC investigation address individual rather than classwide issues,” Judge Francis said. “This contention is legally unfounded and is not based on an accurate reading of the record in this case.”

The magistrate said that Chen-Oster’s claim in her EEOC charge that she was acting on behalf of other similarly situated women was enough on its own to exhaust class claims, and that even if that were not the case, she had elaborated on her class allegations in some of the details she provided to the agency.

As such, Judge Francis recommended the court deny Goldman's motion.

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The plaintiffs are represented by Adam T. Klein, Cara E. Greene, Jennifer L. Liu and Mariko Hirose of Outten & Golden LLP and Kelly M. Dermody, Heather H. Wong, Anne B. Shaver and Alison M. Stocking of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP.

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The case is Chen-Oster et al. v. Goldman Sachs & Co. et al., case number 1:10-cv-06950, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.