Broader Discovery Ordered in Goldman Gender Bias Suit

, New York Law Journal

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Internal complaints that have a conceivable relationship to gender discrimination must be provided in discovery in a putative class action against Goldman Sachs, a federal magistrate judge has ruled.

Southern District Magistrate Judge James Francis IV (See Profile) directed Goldman to turn over internal complaints that could relate to plaintiffs' claims of discrimination against female employees with respect to compensation, promotion and performance evaluation. The magistrate judge found that a broader range of complaints could be relevant even if they do not contain "buzzwords" such as "gender" or "glass ceiling."

Francis made that ruling Tuesday in Chen-Oster v. Goldman Sachs, 10 Civ. 6950, a case where women at the associate, vice president and managing director level of employment at Goldman allege violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York City Human Rights Law.

The plaintiffs are seeking to win certification of a class of women in those three levels of employment in the firm's Securities, Investment Banking, Investment Management and Merchant Banking divisions.

In 2012, Francis compelled pre-certification discovery of the firm's computerized data on pay, promotion and evaluation.

In July 2013, the plaintiffs made a motion to compel Goldman to produce all internal complaints made by putative class members that relate to compensation, promotion or evaluation, unredacted copies of all discoverable complaints and internal complaints made by female employees who are not part of the putative class.

Their motion initially sought complaints "referring or relating to gender discrimination" but they later amended it to cover any complaints made by female employees "referring or relating to unfair treatment."

Goldman, which had already produced some complaints, opposed the motion as too broad.

Francis heard oral argument on Sept. 12 where lawyers for the plaintiffs alleged that Goldman had only turned over complaints that contained "magic language" indicating the complaint was directly related to gender discrimination. Goldman countered that it does not rely on "magic words" in assembling responsive documents and that it had produced every internal complaint that had some "conceivable relationship" to their claims.

Goldman cited Zahorik v. Cornell University, 98 F.R.D. 27 (N.D.N.Y. 1983), saying the plaintiffs were engaged in a "general 'fishing expedition,'" into unrelated claims, including "discrimination claims based on factors other than sex."

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