The former top attorney for data analytics company EXL Service Holdings Inc. was fired in retaliation for complaining about sexist comments, curtailed responsibilities, and disrespect she faced as the only woman on the company’s executive leadership committee, she alleged in a lawsuit April 29.
Nancy Saltzman, the company’s former general counsel and vice president, is suing EXL and its top executives in the New York Supreme Court for $20 million in damages for gender discrimination and retaliation. Saltzman claims she was treated differently than her male peers during her four years at the company. When she brought her concerns about discrimination to the executives, she was terminated, the lawsuit claims.
A number of recent lawsuits have been filed against companies claiming that their old boys’ club culture creates an unfair playing field for women. Sanford Heisler Sharp, which is representing Saltzman, has ongoing lawsuits on behalf of former general counsels, including at Armani Corp. The firm also has filed gender discrimination lawsuits against several Big Law firms, including Ogletree Deakins, Jones Day, and Morrison & Foerster.
Saltzman said in the lawsuit that the majority male leadership team created a discriminatory environment. During her interview process, she said, executives made comments about whether she was attractive, and one mentioned her “short skirt.” The treatment culminated in her being asked to serve cake at a meeting with junior male employees because she was one of the few women in the room, the lawsuit says.
She also says critical information was withheld that limited her ability to make legal decisions for the company and she was micromanaged unlike other executives, including having travel requests denied and projects and opportunities taken away.
‘Striking Blindness’ to Gender Issues
Russell Kornblith, New York managing partner of Sanford Heisler Sharp, said EXL has a major problem with gender diversity, and Saltzman’s experience as the only female throughout her time there demonstrates how this attitude permeates in large and small ways. For example, he said, neckties were given as gifts. He also cited the example of Saltzman being asked to serve the cake.
“There was striking blindness,” Kornblith said. “She worked her way to the top, and women who succeed like this are familiar with gender discrimination. It should tell you what it must have been like to get to the point of complaining about it.” When “the most senior woman at the company” is “being disrespected,” Kornblith said, it “sends a message.”
Saltzman is represented by a Sanford Heisler Sharp team led by Kornblith, Chairman David Sanford, and associate Nicole Wiitala.
Lynne Hermle, partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, represents the company. Hermle didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case is Nancy Saltzman v. ExlService Holdings Inc, N.Y. Sup. Ct., 154361, 4/29/19.