Fired VP sues Goldman for anti-gay discrimination
Goldman Sachs was sued Wednesday 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 on the Specialty Solutions team within Goldman’s Product Strategy Group, 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 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?"
Littleton, 31, 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 in New York state court.
The bank said the suit is “without merit” and called the claims “baseless.”
"Goldman Sachs has a sustained and proven commitment to diversity, and we are proud of the vibrant and diverse LGBTQ community at the firm," spokesman Patrick Scanlan said in a statement. "We strongly encourage all of our employees to bring their authentic selves to work, because it makes us a better firm.”
Goldman has scored a perfect 100 since 2004 on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, which measures a company’s overall internal and external support of LGBT workers.
Todd Sears, who runs the business network Out Leadership, said even the best companies still wrestle with discrimination issues. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s senior chairman, is an emeritus member of Out Leadership’s global board.
“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.”
David Gottlieb, a lawyer for Littleton and a partner in the Manhattan firm Wigdor, which filed the case, said Littleton’s experience isn’t unusual.
“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," he said.
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 Jan. 31, 2019, according to the complaint.
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.