Employer may not have cake and eat it

$20 million gender discrimination and retaliation suit filed on behalf of the former female general counsel after she was made to serve cake to juniors.


Sanford Heisler Sharp has filed suit against EXL Service Holdings, Inc, one of the world’s largest operations management and data analytics companies, and its senior officers, on behalf of its former general counsel and executive vice president, Nancy Saltzman.

Serving cake

The Complaint alleges that when Ms. Saltzman complained to EXL board member Clyde Ostler about the discrimination that she was personally experiencing, the company fired her. According to the Complaint, as early as her first interviews, Ms Saltzman’s gender made her a target. The complaint discusses the sexist comments made by EXL’s President and chief operating officer Pavan Bagai who asked another executive who had interviewed Ms Saltzman whether she was “attractive.” When the other executive described her attire, Mr Bagai commented that he appreciated her “short skirt.” The situation did not improve after Ms.Saltzman was hired. According to the lawsuit, EXL’s overwhelmingly male senior leadership marginalized, micromanaged, and disrespected Ms Saltzman, who was the first and only woman ever on EXL’s Executive Committee. This conduct allegedly included denying her travel requests, withholding essential information, and sharply curtailing her authority to make legal decisions for the company. This discrimination came to a head, Ms Saltzman alleges, when EXL ceo Rohit Kapoor personally directed Ms Saltzman to serve cake to junior male employees during a company anniversary celebration.

“Must punish the bad actors”

“Ms Saltzman worked hard for twenty years to earn a seat at the table on EXL’s executive committee,” said David Sanford, chairman of Sanford Heisler Sharp. “When she got there, however, she apparently found herself relegated to serving cake.” The Complaint alleges that EXL’s board nurtured the company’s discriminatory environment by empowering ceo Mr Kapoor and executive vice president Mr Miglani to retaliate against Ms Saltzman. Specifically, Ms Saltzman alleges that she sought assistance from board audit committee chair Clyde Ostler in addressing the discrimination. According to the complaint, rather than confront EXL’s male domination and discriminatory practices, Mr Ostler and board chairman Garen Staglin empowered the leadership to fire Ms  Saltzman. They did so, Ms Saltzman alleges, by telling Ms. Saltzman that her complaints of discrimination constituted her resignation. “When senior executives complain of discrimination, corporations must punish the bad actors,” said Russell Kornblith, New York managing partner of Sanford Heisler Sharp.

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