A recent legal triumph may signal a crack in the proverbial glass ceiling in Wall Street business. Amochaev v. Smith Barney, a class-action gender discrimination suit brought in federal court in California, settled for $33 million in August 2008. The law firm Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP represented female Financial Advisors who charged that Smith Barney, the retail brokerage unit of Citigroup, discriminated against them in account distributions, business leads, referral business, partnership opportunities, and other terms of employment.
In addition to the monetary compensation, the settlement included comprehensive injunctive relief for four years designed to increase business opportunities and promote equality in compensation for female brokers. "This action has been brought to remedy a culture of hostility toward equal opportunity at Smith Barney," said plaintiffs' attorney Kelly M. Dermody of Lieff, Cabraser. This isn’t the first time Smith Barney has been asked in court to remedy the way it treats women—a sex discrimination case brought in 1997 resulted in a $15 million commitment to women’s recruitment programs and an additional $2 million to the plaintiffs, who were also female employees of Smith Barney. Amochaev’s outcome, settling for nearly twice that total amount, is a major win for the women at Smith Barney and for women elsewhere seeking equal employment opportunities.
Legal Momentum has been selected as a cy pres beneficiary to receive $11,800 from the case’s settlement fund. This serves as a recognition that Legal Momentum has worked to advance women’s rights for more than forty years, and continues to advocate through the legal system and in cooperation with government agencies and policymakers to combat sex discrimination in employment. Legal Momentum board member Elizabeth Cabraser is a named partner at Lieff Cabraser.
As this inequality continues, so do Legal Momentum’s efforts to support women in the workplace. Progress is happening organically, as more and more companies realize that gender equality improves decision-making and is good for business. Yet, companies may need more to galvanize them to implement fairer employment practices. Legal Momentum strives to continue putting legal and political pressure on companies to give women the opportunities, and pay, that they deserve.