A Not-So-Hostile Work Environment

Bloomberg reported Tuesday, that Goldman Sachs had paid $12 million to a former partner after she claimed senior members of the firm made “vulgar or dismissive comments about females.”

According to reports, the settlement agreement was reached in 2020 as a failed attempt to keep the allegations against the ex-partner from becoming public. Bloomberg was told by anonymous sources that the partner had created a large list of complaints. They claimed that Goldman had an institutional problem with senior staff making “dismissive comments” about women and that it had a leadership culture that favors men. Bloomberg described the allegations of the partner as consistent with a class-action suit against Goldman in 2019. The suit was based on Goldman’s alleged inculcation of a “boys club” atmosphere within the firm.

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According to reports, the partner also accused Goldman CEO David Solomon that he had “bragged” to a group of male colleagues that he had “received oral sexual sex,” something Solomon strongly denies.

The actions of all parties involved are equally horrible. Goldman Sachs, a $130 billion company, reimbursed its employees for having their children aborted. David Solomon was the first to announce this policy. The “victim” is a former Goldman partner who was subject to “dismissive remarks.” If there was a way for everyone to lose, I would be for it.

Although I love Goldman Sachs and am proud to defend it, the sexism allegations don’t add up. Both the complainant and Goldman’s feminist contingent want it both way. The former partner claimed that Goldman managers “like[ed]] women to flight crew” during a meeting on gender issues. She jokingly joked that Goldman’s executives had to be White and Bald to lead the company at an internal function. Which one is it? Is it okay to make jokes?

They want it to be both sides on the accusation that Goldman is a boys’ club. This means that the men at the firm have a culture of bantering and ribbing which excludes women. That “boys’ club” atmosphere excludes women. However, when women at Goldman were treated as “the boys”, and were subject to the same bantering and ribbing as men, they turned around and demanded millions of dollars from the firm to cover their “dismissive comments.”

It is also not possible to defend the men’s alleged behaviour. He should be ashamed that the executive actually brags about his sexual activities. If the Goldman men are making “dismissive comments” to women, they need to behave like men. This is because women and men are different. Women can take the same barbs and ribbings men use on men differently.

The feminist contingent at Goldman would almost certainly reject the traditional male norms of behavior, which are more gentle with women than they treat men. They want to be treated like “one of the boys” and protected from the more difficult aspects of male culture. Gender-related office disputes in the United States are rooted in the conflicting desire to both be part of the male “in group” and be protected from it. Goldman and other firms have outsourced conflict resolution to sociology majors working in human resource departments. This allows them to resolve the tension by relying on federal civil rights law’s incentive structure.

As Christopher Caldwell described in The Age of Entitlement, the Civil Rights Act of 1964–specifically courts’ interpretation of Title VII’s prohibition on race- and sex-based employment discrimination–makes certain forms of constitutionally protected speech, like the “flight crew” joke, verboten in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to have zero tolerance for off-color speech because the “severe, pervasive” standard that courts use to adjudicate claims about hostile work environments is subjective. The third comment made about the WNBA may not be enough to support a hostile work environment claim. But the fourth will. It is better to have a company policy that prohibits discussing attendance at Chicago Sky games. This is especially important when anti-discrimination lawsuits are in serious danger.

Caldwell stated that “the fear of litigation privatized suppression of disagreement and speculation.” Companies were forced to ban or even prohibit speech that could be interpreted as contributing to hostile work environments. It may have been more fun to work in an office with the benign ribbing, off-color banter and benign ribbing that is part of male culture. It has been risky since 1964. Goldman is now learning the hard way.

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