Financial services company Smith Barney is being sued by three women on claims of sex discrimination. The current employee and the two former employees suing the company allege that the firm discriminates against women in hiring, training, promotion, and pay, and that women were demoted for getting pregnant or taking maternity leave. In addition to allegations of physical abuse, the lawsuit, filed in a U.S. District Court in Manhattan, also contends that women were routinely intimidated and insulted. The women claim that a fraternity-like atmosphere pervaded the Garden City, NY office where men allegedly gathered in a basement room called the “Boom Boom Room” to drink Bloody Mary’s. Alleging that the firm consistently refused to stop men from sexually harassing women, the lawsuit states that male employees joked that women who didn’t “behave” would be dealt with in the “Boom Boom Room” and that allegations of sexual harassment would be “deliberated” there. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, back pay, promotions, seniority, and a declaration that the practices at Smith Barney violate federal and state laws. Smith Barney has denied the allegations.
According to an article in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, the number of sexual harassment claims on Wall Street is rising. Although women have made strides in the financial world in the last 20 years, women still make up only about 15 percent of the over 100,000 brokers nationwide. The low numbers can lead to a locker-room-like atmosphere in which women are criticized for being too sensitive or not having a sense of humor. The Journal reported on several such cases including another suit against Smith Barney in which a woman was told she was not sexually harassed and that the company would take no remedial action against the man who alleging threatened her into resigning because she refused him sex.