Women Win Partial Cert. In Goldman Bias Suit

Law360—Dave Simpson

After a federal magistrate judge recommended denying their bid, a New York federal judge Friday partially granted certification to female associates and executives accusing Goldman Sachs of systematic gender bias, denying certification for claims predicated on their “boys' club” theory.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis had recommended in March 2015 that the class not be certified because the plaintiffs failed to refute Goldman's argument that injury causation was a highly individualized process, but on Friday U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres found that, for several of the claims, individual causation issues would not predominate over class-wide issues.

“If plaintiffs’ statistical evidence makes out a prima facie claim of disparate impact, defendants are tasked not with rebutting the causal link between the challenged processes and every single class member’s claim, but rather, establishing that the challenged processes were a business necessity,” Judge Torres said, refuting Judge Francis’ recommendation. “This is an issue capable of generalized proof.”

Initially filed in 2010, the suit claimed that Goldman Sachs systematically disfavored female employees and denied them both equal compensation and equal opportunities for advancement in violation of Title VII and the New York law.

As part of their suit, the plaintiffs alleged that Goldman's two main evaluation metrics, called 360 review and quartiling, seem gender-neutral at first glance but that women score worse than men on both.

The women also alleged that Goldman Sachs intentionally adopted those policies in order to disadvantage women, and that a “corporate culture” of bias favoring men existed at the firm that fostered a pattern of discrimination.

The plaintiffs moved in May 2014 to certify a class of all-female associates and vice presidents who have worked in Goldman Sachs’ investment banking, investment management or securities divisions from Sept. 10, 2004, to the present, and in New York City from July 7, 2002, to the present. The class would potentially include about 1,800 members, according to court documents.

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The plaintiffs are represented by Adam T. Klein of Outten & Golden LLP, and Kelly M. Dermody of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP.

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The case is H. Cristina 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.