“In 2014, as a lawyer with two decades of experience, Nancy Saltzman joined ExlService Holdings as its general counsel. At the time, she was the most senior female executive at the publicly traded consulting firm, whose leadership team was dominated by men.
But rather than empower Saltzman, management at Exl gave those men the cover they needed to fire her after she filed a discrimination complaint, according to a $20 million lawsuit filed Monday. It names the company, CEO Rohit Kapoor and several other executives.
According to the complaint, Kapoor “took steps to exclude her from career and advancement opportunities, subjected her to enhanced scrutiny, and micromanaged her” in a manner her male equals were not.
The lack of diversity among Exl leadership was “startling,” according to Russell Kornblith, who is representing Saltzman in the lawsuit. The workplace culture exhibited “stark examples of gender stereotypes” under a management team that was “staggeringly tone deaf.”
For some Exl employees, the afternoon of May 21, 2018, was a celebration — it was the company’s 19th anniversary.
For Saltzman, it was a breaking point.
Of the more than 20 employees in attendance, only four of whom were women. The complaint said Kapoor “personally directed that Ms. Saltzman,” as one of the “ladies” in the room, “serve cake to the Company’s junior male employees.”
“Humiliated, Ms. Saltzman was forced to walk across the room to cut and plate slices of cake for the Company’s male employees,” court documents recount, “the vast majority of whom were subordinate to her in rank.”
Soon after a meeting in which Kapoor accused Saltzman of being “very emotional” — a criticism that she said was “grounded in sexist stereotypes” — Saltzman reported the gender discrimination to two executives. She asked the company to form a plan to remedy the situation. Fearing retaliation from Kapoor, she also expressly asked that she be told if he was informed of the allegation. Saltzman planned to take protective steps.
Instead, the board authorized Kapoor to terminate her, which he did; the filing said Kapoor claimed he understood Saltzman’s complaint as a resignation. If there was any doubt or confusion about her willingness to continue in her role, the lawsuit quotes an email from Saltzman to the chairman of the board, which begins, ‘To be clear, I have not and did not resign.’”
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