For the second time this summer, a former female partner at Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. has filed a multi-million dollar gender discrimination lawsuit against the consulting firm, accusing officials of actively denying women the chance to move up to top leadership positions.
Margo Fitzpatrick, who was fired last September after 12 years with the firm, filed a $40 million lawsuit (PDF) Friday in District of Columbia Superior Court. Her complaint comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed in late July by another former female partner, Molly Finn, who was also fired last September and has lodged charges of gender-based discrimination against the McLean, Va.-based company and its leadership.
Fitzpatrick is being represented by Debra Katz of Washington-based employment discrimination firm Katz, Marshall & Banks. Katz said this morning that other women expressing similar complaints of discrimination have reached out to her since news of the lawsuit broke.
"It does sound like ... these issue have remained silent for a while," Katz said. "Now that these suits have been filed, people have felt emboldened."
In a statement released earlier today, Katz said that Fitzpatrick’s allegations fly in the face of the firm’s “self-claimed and much-hyped commitment to a diverse workforce.”
“No matter how accomplished or successful you are at Booz Allen Hamilton, if you’re a woman, you will hit a glass ceiling,” Katz said. “And when you raise concerns about the exclusion of women from leadership positions at the Firm or other blatant acts of sex discrimination, you will find yourself, as Dr. Fitzpatrick did, out of a job.”
In a statement this morning, Booz Allen spokeswoman Marie Lerch said that while company does not comment on individual personnel matters, it denies Fitzpatrick’s allegations.
“Booz Allen has a performance-based culture that is rigorous at the partner level, and decisions are made based on merit, not gender. Because of our confidence in our position, we intend to contest Ms. Fitzpatrick’s claims through the litigation process,” Lerch said.
According to the complaint, Fitzpatrick joined Booz Allen in 1999, working her way up to a partner-level position in 2005. She was placed on track to higher-level partner positions, and was asked to co-lead the company’s Financial Reform Campaign in 2008. Between the 2008 and 2010 fiscal years, she brought in more than $588 million in new business.
Throughout this time, however, Fitzpatrick, who is lesbian, claims she was subjected to discrimination based on her gender and sexual orientation. According to the complaint, her supervisor expressed doubts that she could succeed in the “good ole boys club” of the finance industry and made mocking and demeaning comments about Fitzpatrick and other female employees, asking Fitzpatrick repeatedly if she had been in a sorority, for instance, and making other “college-aged sex stereotypes.”
Fitzpatrick recounted how she was excluded from major meetings and social events with clients, and was met with nervous laughter from her male counterparts when she would ask about the exclusions later. She also accused firm leaders of asking inappropriate questions relating to her sexual orientation.
Fitzpatrick’s termination was effective July 31. She claims she was fired not only because the firm takes active steps to terminate female employees before they can move to upper management, but also because she reported the allegedly discriminatory behavior.
“I ended up a victim of sex discrimination and retaliation, and was driven out of the Firm,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “I’m seeking justice not only for myself, but for many other women who continue to face the very same kind of discrimination in their careers at Booz Allen.”
The case is before Judge John Ramsey. A scheduling conference is set for Nov. 18.