Women and minorities have long struggled with the question of whether to speak out against discrimination and harassment or keep quiet in order to keep their jobs and their reputations. Although the #MeToo movement is doing much to encourage women to speak out about the inequalities they face, especially in the workplace, a movement doesn’t put food on the table or pay rent when someone loses their job as a result of having spoken up.
Wall Street has created an especially difficult environment for women. It remains a male-dominated industry with very few women rising to leadership positions. Women who do manage to climb the ranks consistently find that they need to be more qualified than men who achieve similar positions. After having worked so hard to get where they are, few women are willing to risk their positions by criticizing their employers or coworkers.
The result is that many women are still subjected to discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace and the people who should be disciplining their tormentors are other men, who are all-too-often unwilling and unmotivated to deliver any kind of punishment.
On top of that, Wall Street is a small world. Anyone who gets a reputation for “stirring up trouble” will find it hard to get another job. In general, the industry prefers to handle allegations of misconduct quietly.
Despite these challenges, Lauren Bonner, who works as an associate director for Point72 Asset Management, filed a lawsuit against her employer for gender discrimination and harassment. According to the lawsuit, a whiteboard in the office of the company’s president, Douglas Haynes, allegedly had the word “pussy” written on it for several weeks in 2017. While the derogatory word remained on display, female employees were forced to work and participate in meetings in the office with Haynes and other male executives – all while having to endure the sight of the offensive word in their boss’ office.
In addition to having to endure such humiliations, Bonner alleges women are rarely rewarded with a promotion to senior positions, and when they are, they’re allegedly only paid a fraction of what their male counterparts earn. Of the 125 portfolio managers at Point72, all but one are men. Of the 32 managing directors, again, only one is a woman. Further, the committee responsible for hiring investment professionals for the company is composed solely of men.
Bonner pointed to her own experience of alerting the firm’s human resources department to “unacceptable behavior” that she had allegedly been subjected to by a male superior. But he remained on the firm’s promotion committee, which was responsible for judging her own eligibility for promotion. After she filed her complaint, the committee allegedly decided she was “abrasive and too aggressive.” It’s hard to imagine a man in the industry getting called “too aggressive.”
Bonner also pointed to other struggles the company has had recently, saying they encouraged her to speak out. The company was started by Steven Cohen, the billionaire who was suspended from managing investors’ money after being charged with securities fraud in 2013. He started Point72 to manage his own wealth, and with his suspension ending earlier this year, he has reportedly been planning a return to the hedge fund business, but whether investors can trust him with their money is another matter. Cohen’s troubled history put the company at a disadvantage, which is part of why Bonner saw this as an opportunity to convince her employer to change its policies and practices towards their female employees.
Super Lawyers named Illinois employment discrimination and commercial law trial attorney Peter Lubin a Super Lawyer and Illinois business dispute attorneys Patrick Austermuehle and Andrew Murphy Rising Stars in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation, and Consumer Rights Litigation. Lubin Austermuehle’s Illinois business trial lawyers have over thirty years of experience in litigating employment discrimination and sex and race harassment lawsuits, complex class action, copyright, noncompete agreement, trademark and libel suits, consumer rights and many different types of business and commercial litigation disputes. Our Deerfield and Evanston employment discrimination, sex harassment, business dispute lawyers, civil litigation lawyers and copyright attorneys handle emergency business lawsuits involving copyrights, trademarks, injunctions, and TROS, covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes involving shareholders, partnerships, closely held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. We also assist Chicago and Oak Brook area businesses and business owners who are victims of fraud. You can contact us by calling at 630-333-0333. You can also contact us online here.