A new lawsuit alleges women and minorities employed by the American Bankers Association “are subjected to systemic discrimination and a culture of fear designed to deter them from reporting discrimination or otherwise advocating for equal opportunity,” the law firm Outten & Golden LLP said today.
Christine “Christy” Walika, a former executive vice president who worked for the organization for 25 years, sued the American Bankers Association in Superior Court in the District of Columbia, alleging the banking industry’s largest trade association violated the D.C. Human Rights Act and the D.C. Family and Medical Leave Act after she reported discriminatory conduct.
According to the complaint, “Christy Walika demonstrated an exceptional work ethic and exemplary performance. She rose through the ranks of the American Bankers Association, but when she used her position to speak out against its discriminatory practices against herself and other women and people of color at the company, she became the target of hostile treatment and retaliation, was denied promotion, and ultimately fired.”
Ms. Huhta said, “We hope this lawsuit helps our client and other women in the financial industry feel confident that they can come forward and speak out against discrimination and harassment without fear of illegal retaliation.”
This lawsuit charges the American Bankers Association with “discriminatory and retaliatory actions against Ms. Walika, including denying her equal pay, denying her a promotion, demoting her, unfairly disciplining her, subjecting her to multiple materially adverse changes to the terms of her employment, and terminating her, all due to her gender, prior complaints of discrimination and other protected activity, and her request for medical leave, in violation of anti-discrimination and medical leave laws.”
The lawsuit also alleges that over the years the “American Bankers Association has received reports involving sexual harassment and discrimination” by men at the top levels of the organization, yet allowed those men to remain in power.
The lawsuit alleges that although the “American Bankers Association markets itself as an organization that supports the advancement of women and people of color within the banking industry, behind the scenes, women and minorities are subjected to systemic discrimination and a culture of fear. Ms. Walika’s experiences at the American Bankers Association reveal an outdated ‘old boys club’ culture where discrimination, harassment and retaliation against women, African Americans and other minorities is standard.”
Throughout its history, according to the lawsuit, the organization “has excluded women from leadership and promotion opportunities” and since “its founding in 1875, no woman has ever served as the American Bankers Association’s highest executive officer” and no “woman of color has ever served at the Executive Vice President level.”
“We believe that women and people of color should not be relegated to second-class status in any workplace, and that they should be able to speak out against systemic discrimination when they see it or experience it firsthand,” added Ms. Huhta.
The case is “Christine Walika v. American Bankers Association” in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Civil Division.