A former vice president at a New York bank alleges that she was fired in September in retaliation for filing a gender discrimination lawsuit last year. The original lawsuit, filed in September 2011, alleged that the bank discriminated against her by denying her promotions and eventually demoting her because of pregnancies and maternity leaves. She referred to the bank’s pattern of discrimination as “mommy-tracking.” She has now added a claim for unlawful retaliation to her discrimination claims in a New York federal district court.
Kelley Voelker, age 46, worked for fourteen years as a vice president with Deutsche Bank’s securities lending desk in New York City. She claims in her lawsuit that the bank routinely promoted male candidates for jobs over her, even when she had equal qualifications. She described the atmosphere towards women in the office as “hostile and degrading” in general, with at least one manager allegedly taking clients to strips clubs and using vulgar language.
In 2003, Voelker gave birth to her first child. She alleges that one of her superiors told her he doubted she would be able to return to the company after her maternity leave. Her supervisors “never took her seriously,” she claims, because the company took a negative view of a woman starting a family. She says she experienced harassment from co-workers during her last pregnancy in 2009, and supervisors continued to disregard her high performance record at the bank. When she returned from maternity leave in May 2010, she claims that a supervisor tried to get her to accept a different, reduced role, supposedly at the request of the bank’s management.
Voelker filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in September 2011, alleging gender discrimination based on pregnancy. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on gender, including pregnancy discrimination. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended the Civil Rights Act to explicitly add pregnancy as a prohibited ground for discrimination.
After filing the lawsuit, according to Voelker, she began to experience overt retaliation. She alleges that the first performance review she received after filing suit was her first negative one in her entire time with the bank. She also claims that management “fabricated performance deficiencies” and ignored her achievements in order to penalize her by removing her from a critical account. In July 2012, the bank announced that it would be cutting 1,900 jobs, but her department reportedly received assurances that the cuts would not affect them. On September 11, 2012, however, she allegedly learned her job was among those cut. September 12 was her last day.
By agreement of the parties to the lawsuit, Voelker may amend her complaint to include a claim for unlawful retaliation. A plaintiff must normally submit any employment discrimination claim to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the comparable state or city agency. Because a suit for discrimination is already pending, the parties agreed to skip that part of the process in order to have all matters in dispute heard together.
At Phillips & Associates, we work to safeguard the rights of employees and job seekers in the New York City area who have experienced pregnancy discrimination and other forms of employment discrimination in violation of federal, state, and local laws. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
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Pregnancy Can Still Mean Penalties at Work for Many New Yorkers, New York Employment Attorney Blog, September 14, 2012
Study Links Discrimination Against Pregnant Women to Health Problems in Newborns, New York Employment Attorney Blog, August 30, 2012
New York Judge Allows Pregnancy Discrimination Claim Against Victoria’s Secret to Proceed, New York Employment Attorney Blog, August 17, 2012
Photo credit: ‘Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt-am-Main’ © Raimond Spekking / CC-BY-SA-3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.