On January 31, 2011, Elaine Cyphers (“Plaintiff of Cyphers”) filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in New York seeking to “redress and bring to an end to systematic, companywide, gender discrimination” by Toshiba America, Inc. and Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corporation (“TANE”) (jointly “Defendants”) against their female employees. The eight-count lawsuit, which was brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, back pay, front pay, nominal, liquidated and punitive damages in an amount not less than $100,000,000, attorneys’ fees costs and expenses. (Case No: 1:11-cv- 00642-RJS).
In June 2008, TANE hired Cyphers to be its new human resources manager. Her resume included 27 years of experience in employee relations, legal compliance, recruiting, compensation and organizational strategy and development issues. She holds a masters degree in organizational development and advanced professional certifications from the Society for Human Resource Management. The complaint describes a work environment where women were allegedly not seen as equals and where Cyphers’ failure to conform to the typical gender stereotypes subjected her to increased scrutiny, criticism and retaliation by depriving her of a private office, monitoring her e-mails, business expenses and physical movements and subjecting her to a new performance evaluation process.
In seeking to represent a class of female employees, Cyphers alleges that the Defendants discriminate against female employees by applying employment policies and practices in a discriminatory manner by, failing to pay women salaries and bonuses equal to men who perform similar work, segregating women into lower level pay grades, providing less promotion opportunities and favoring men over women for promotion.
With regards to her individual claims, Cyphers alleges that the Defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her gender by paying her less than male employees in the same band level with significantly less experience, refusing to negotiate her pay and hiring bonus, refusing to pay relocation expenses, denying her a promotion, retaliating against her for filing a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and subjecting her to intentional and negligent severe emotional distress.
The Defendants have not yet responded to these allegations. However, in reviewing the thirty-eight (38) page complaint, it is clear that the Defendants will incur substantial fees defending these allegations and will be required to invest a significant amount of time developing a litigation strategy, engaging in document production and numerous depositions. As we follow this case through the process, we will periodically report significant developments and any lessons learned. In the meantime, please consider reviewing your policies and procedures to determine if they are having a discriminatory impact on a protected class of employees. For example, (1) How many minorities or women hold key management positions? (2) Are there cultural differences or biases that are affecting your company’s decision making process? (3) Are expatriates treated differently than local hires? Should you have any concerns about your hiring, promotion and/or retention of employees, please be sure to consult with your relationship attorney.