July 22, 2011 / 6:21 PM / 9 years ago

Goldman Sachs fights bias lawsuit, cites Wal-Mart

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) said a recent landmark decision throwing out a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart (WMT.N) means it should not face a wide-ranging case accusing it of systematic bias against women.

A Goldman Sachs sign is seen above their booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, January 19, 2011. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The investment bank in court papers said the three women who sued it last year have highly individual claims that cannot be readily applied to a wider class of plaintiffs.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court said a gender bias case against Wal-Mart on behalf of a group believed to exceed 1.5 million workers could not proceed because the plaintiffs’ claims did not have enough in common to sue as a group. The plaintiffs allege that Goldman underpays women and promotes them less often than men.

A grant of class-action status can result in larger awards and make it easier for people who otherwise could not sue on their own to recover.

“The (Wal-Mart) holding has powerful relevance here,” Goldman’s lawyers wrote in papers filed late Thursday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan where the lawsuit is pending.

“The charge does not mention or allege any class-wide problem common to any ‘similarly-situated women’ plaintiff Chen-Oster seeks to represent. It does not set forth even one factual contention supposedly common to her and anyone else,” Goldman’s lawyers wrote.

The proposed class action seeks to represent “similarly situated” current and former female associates, vice presidents and managing directors employed by the company. Men at the company “are viewed more favorably, receive more compensation, and are more likely to be promoted,” the plaintiffs wrote.

Goldman Sachs is accused of violating Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act and New York City Human Rights Law. The women are seeking back pay, changes to compensation and promotion practices, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

The June 20 Supreme Court ruling in Wal-Mart’s favor, known as Dukes et al vs. Wal-Mart, is expected to have a significant impact on sex discrimination class-actions, because it makes it harder to win certification of large groups of plaintiffs.

Pending sex-discrimination class actions that could be affected by the Wal-Mart ruling include cases against Costco Wholesale Corp (COST.O), Toshiba Corp (6502.T), Cigna (CI.N) Corp and Bayer (BAYGn.DE).

The Wal-Mart decision asserted that “vague allegations of class-wide discrimination” are not enough to support a sex bias class action lawsuit, Goldman’s attorneys wrote in Thursday’s filing.

The case is Chen-Oster et al vs. Goldman Sachs & Co and The Goldman Sachs Group Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, case no. 1:10-cv-06950

Editing by Robert MacMillan

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