WestLB AG, a large state-owned German bank, repeatedly retaliated against a former woman equity salesperson for complaining about gender discrimination in the workplace, and then terminated her to prevent the vesting of her pension, according to a unanimous verdict by a jury of ten in Manhattan federal court.
After eleven days of trial testimony, on November 8, 2007, the jury ordered WestLB AG to pay the plaintiff, Claudia Quinby, a total of $2.54 million in damages. Of that amount, $1.3 million was awarded to punish the bank for acting with malice or reckless indifference to the plaintiff’s rights. Several witnesses testified at trial, including the plaintiff, former human resource representatives and other equity salespeople, current bank managers, and the plaintiff’s supervisor at the bank who admitted to using sexually offensive language at work, transmitting sexually offensive messages through the bank’s email and Bloomberg accounts, and being "bitter" about the plaintiff’s complaints of gender discrimination.
In 2002, Ms. Quinby complained to the bank’s head of human resources after finding out that she had received a drastic cut in compensation in comparison to her male peers. As indicated on the jury verdict form, the jurors found that the bank had retaliated against the plaintiff for complaining about gender discrimination by terminating her and denying her bonus compensation in 2003 and 2004. The jury also found that preventing Ms. Quinby’s pension from vesting was a motivating factor in, or contributed to, the bank’s decision to terminate her in 2004.
"WestLB was found liable under the anti-retaliation provisions of federal, state, and New York City non-discrimination laws. Without these crucial provisions, anti-discrimination laws cannot be enforced. Making a complaint of discrimination is often risky and scary for an employee, so many employees will not complain about discrimination in the workplace unless they are pro-tected," said Kathleen Peratis, a partner at Outten & Golden LLP, counsel for Ms. Quinby.
The case, "Quinby v. WestLB AG" (Index No. 04 Civ. 7406), was filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, in September 2004. It continued for years before the trial commenced on October 22, 2007, in part because discovery, the process by which parties obtain information from each other, was so hard-fought. According to Carmelyn P. Malalis, another Outten & Golden attorney who represented Ms. Quinby, "This verdict is a victory not just for our client, but for all employees who dare to challenge their employers, which generally have much more power, resources and money with which to litigate these cases." Cara E. Greene was also a member of the Outten & Golden trial team.