Dresdner US Operations Hit with Discrimination Charge

January 9, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - US employees of a German investment bank have charged in a lawsuit that the company participated in a widespread gender discrimination scheme at its America wing.

The lawsuit, filed against Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein Securities LLC in US District Court in Manhattan, charged that Dresdner hired women to serve as “eye candy” and permitted an atmosphere in which one woman was dubbed “the Pamela Anderson of trading,” the Associated Press reported.

Plaintiffs also charged Dresdner with barring the advancement and fair treatment of women, and maintaining a corporate culture that generally excludes and demeans women. Legal papers offered statistics – noting, for instance, that four of 258 women in the company’s Capital Markets Division are managing directors, positions held by 15% of men.

“Although we live in 2006, the ‘glass ceiling’ is alive and well at this German investment bank, where women are treated as second-class citizens with respect to all of the terms and conditions of their employment,” the lawsuit said. “This class action seeks to put an end to these intolerable and discriminatory practices.”

The company said it “fully complies with all applicable employment-related laws and is confident that any claims to the contrary are without merit.”

One plaintiff, Jyoti Ruta, alleged that she was pressured by a supervisor and a colleague to leave a dinner celebrating the closing of a major deal, so that male employees and clients could go to a strip club. Another plaintiff, Katherine Smith, said that she had been subjected to vulgar comments by her boss. When she objected, the man laughed, the suit said.

Two months later, during a work lunch to welcome a new hire, the man referred to Smith as “the Pamela Anderson of trading,” the lawsuit said.

Plaintiff Kathleen Treglia said salesmen on her desk openly commented that they chose female junior hires based on appearance because they wanted “eye candy” in the office, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said that, in addition to barriers to advancement to the highest executive level – managing director – there also were barriers at the lower levels. It said the statistics reveal “a telling picture … in which women are subjected to the lowest pay and rank.”

As of May 2005, women comprised only 99, or fewer than 15%, of 775 positions as directors, the second-highest executive level in the company’s Capital Markets Division, the lawsuit said.

In addition, about 300, or 60%, of the 500 women in the department were associates, while only 379, or 22%, of the 1,700 male employees in the division were associates, the lawsuit said.