Goldman Sachs sued as ex-VP alleges discrimination for 'sounding too gay'

Goldman Sachs (AFP)
Goldman Sachs (AFP)

Goldman Sachs Group was sued by a former vice president who claims the bank discriminated against him for being gay and then fired him after he complained about it.

William Littleton, who worked in the Specialty Solutions team within Goldman’s Product Strategy Group, sued the bank Wednesday in a New York state court. Littleton claims he was fired after eight years of superior performance reviews and despite holding a position of leadership among gay and lesbian employees at the firm.

Among the mistreatment alleged in the lawsuit, Littleton, 31, said he was excluded from a call with a Goldman client because “he sounded too gay,” and a supervisor once asked, "What’s wrong with you? Do you act this way because you’re gay?"

Megan Riley, a Goldman Sachs spokeswoman, had no immediate comment on the suit.

Littleton claims his experience demonstrates "larger institutional problems" at Goldman. “Unfortunately, Mr. Littleton’s termination at Goldman is not an isolated incident or exception to the rule at the bank or on Wall Street more broadly," according to the complaint.

‘Take Ownership’

Todd Sears, who runs the business network Out Leadership, said even the best companies still faces issues relating to discrimination in the workplace.

“It would be disingenuous or untrue to say it doesn’t happen,” said Sears, who isn’t involved in the case. “A company can only do so much to create an environment. The people within that environment have to take ownership to make sure that it’s carried out day to day.”

Goldman Sachs scored a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, which measures a company’s overall internal and external support of LGBT workers. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s Sachs’s senior chairman, is an emeritus member of Out Leadership’s global board.

Hesitant

“To this day, Wall Street employees are hesitant to be open about their sexual orientation or raise concerns about discrimination for fear that they will face backlash and be treated as outsiders," said David Gottlieb, a lawyer for Littleton and a partner in the Manhattan firm Wigdor LLP, which filed the case.

In his complaint, Littleton claims he was subjected to demeaning remarks and that his compensation decreased in his later years at the bank, despite promotions and increased responsibilities. He complained to the bank’s employee relations department in May 2018. Months later he received a performance review with criticisms he claims were part of “a belated attempt to create a paper trail” and was told his last day at the bank would be January 31, 2019, according to the complaint.

Proud, active and vocal

Also named as defendants are Rachel Schnoll, a managing director and head of the Product Strategy Group, and Sirion Skulpone, the former head of Littleton’s team.

Littleton said that while he was at the bank he was involved as a leader in Goldman’s LGBT network. He started as a Goldman analyst after graduating from Amherst College in 2010.

“Mr. Littleton was one of the most proud, active and vocal LGBTQ leaders at Goldman throughout his tenure,” according to the complaint.

Littleton, who lives in Manhattan, claims Goldman’s treatment of him violated New York state and city anti-discrimination laws. He’s seeking unspecified compensation from the bank plus punitive damages.

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