The former in-house attorney at Goldman Sachs has alleged that she was fired for trying to provide information to internal investigators in an investigation of the legal department.
A tug-of-war over where to litigate a former Goldman Sachs in-house lawyer’s lawsuit against the company has become another instance of lawyers calling for an end to arbitration agreements with their employers.
In an open letter to Goldman Sachs, a former in-house attorney at the firm, who also is suing the company, called on her former employer to end its practice of mandatory arbitration and allow another attorney who settled sexual harassment claims to break her nondisclosure agreement.
In a Thursday post titled “Women Are Being Silenced at Goldman Sachs,” Marla Crawford asked her former employer to release her and all other employees from confidential arbitration and nondisclosure agreements. Such open letters have been published by other clients of Wigdor Law in New York, which is representing Crawford in her complaint against the banking giant.
In October, Crawford filed a complaint against her former employer in New York state court, alleging that she was fired from the company after trying to tell internal investigators about an inappropriate relationship between the head of litigation, Darrell Cafasso, and a junior attorney, only identified as Jane Doe. The junior attorney allegedly settled out of court with Goldman Sachs and signed a nondisclosure agreement.
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In the wake of the #MeToo movement, many companies have banned the use of mandatory arbitration policies for victims of sexual harassment. In the open letter, Crawford mentioned that several organizations, including Wells Fargo, Uber, Google, Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, Sidley Austin, Kirkland & Ellis and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, have banned forced arbitration.
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Kalpana Kotagal, a partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll in Washington, D.C., who is also not involved in the case, said NDAs and mandatory arbitration are primarily used for “masking or concealing settlements that relate to sexual harassment.”
“The biggest challenge to them is the way they can be used to mask patterns of harassment and relatedly other types of discrimination and can be used to protect high-powered perpetrators,” Kotagal said.
However, victims can get one important benefit from an NDA, she noted. Keeping the dispute from becoming public can allow them to protect their identity and move on with their life, Kotagal said.
Still, she said putting sexual harassment claims into arbitration takes the public eye away from those claims.
“That combination of taking things out of court and also wrapping in a prohibition on pursuing a class action has two layers of inhibiting victims from knowing about each other, from coming forward together and from litigating their claims together in a way that might lead to greater scrutiny of the company’s practices,” Kotagal said.
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