Case Type: Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment
Organization: Schlumberger Technology Corporation
Today Sanford Heisler Sharp filed an Amended Class Action Complaint against oil and gas behemoth Schlumberger Technology Corporation, the largest oilfield services company in the world, on behalf of women who work on oil rigs in the United States. The Amended Complaint adds Jessica Cheatham, a former Schlumberger employee who worked on oil rigs in various states, as a Plaintiff and Class Representative. Ms. Cheatham joins original Plaintiff and Class Representative Sara Saidman.
The Plaintiffs are represented by Michael D. Palmer, Nicole E. Wiitala, and Carolin E. Guentert of Sanford Heisler Sharp and Todd Slobin and Melinda Arbuckle of Shellist Lazarz Slobin.
“Despite being employed by Schlumberger at different times and often different locations, the discrimination they experienced is consistent and common,” said Michael Palmer. “Plaintiffs now seek to put an end to the systemic discrimination and harassment that they and hundreds of other women have suffered while working at Schlumberger.”
In amending the complaint to add Ms. Cheatham, Plaintiffs chronicle the gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation that Ms. Cheatham, like Ms. Saidman, endured throughout her employment at Schlumberger. For example, according to the complaint, Ms. Cheatham alleges that one of her male colleagues threatened to “bend [her] over [his] knee and spank [her]” and used inappropriate and crude sexual language when teaching her how to use a certain tool (such as describing one part of the tool as “the pussy”). When Ms. Cheatham complained to Human Resources, she was told, “Guys just do that. This is a man’s field, so they’re bound to say stuff.”
The Amended Complaint details other instances of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, including that one of Ms. Cheatham’s male colleagues told her that she was “one of those girls working in the oilfield, trying to sleep around with men out here.” On another occasion, Ms. Cheatham was accused of performing “special favors” of a sexual nature in order to get a promotion. A different Schlumberger employee told Ms. Cheatham that wearing shorts on the rig meant that she was “asking for it.” Ms. Cheatham also alleges that male workers told her that she did not deserve to work on rigs and, in one instance, called the Schlumberger office to request that she be replaced by a man.
Ms. Cheatham alleges that she reported sexual harassment and gender discrimination to Schlumberger on multiple occasions, but her complaints were either discounted or ignored entirely. The Amended Complaint details how Schlumberger retaliated against Ms. Cheatham for complaining about discrimination, eventually refusing to staff her on any rig unless she accepted a significant demotion and took a position in Alaska.
“The addition of Ms. Cheatham as a Plaintiff and Class Representative is further evidence of the pervasive gender-based hostility that exists for women who work in the male-dominated oil field at Schlumberger,” said Nicole Wiitala.
Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, and Assault on Oil Rigs
Men dominate oil rigs. Women make up only 5% of the Schlumberger employees staffed on the hundreds of oil rigs to which the Company provides services. The lawsuit details how women on oil rigs are sexually harassed, groped, leered at, objectified, threatened, and labeled as “cunts,” “bitches,” and “sluts” who are undeserving of equal pay by their male colleagues on the rig.
Schlumberger requires women to share living quarters and even a bedroom with multiple men who work with them on the oil rig—often the same men who sexually harass, denigrate, and discriminate against them on a daily basis—making it impossible for women to escape the harassment inflicted by their male colleagues.
Plaintiff Sara Saidman, who was just twenty-one years old when she began working for Schlumberger as a Field Engineer, reached her breaking point when one of her male colleagues (with whom she was forced to share living quarters) encouraged other men to break into her bedroom while she was sleeping and ignore her if she resisted their sexual advances, assuring them that Ms. Saidman “likes it whether or not she wants it” and “the more she screams, the more she wants it.” Ms. Saidman alleges that she reported these comments to a Human Resources representative, who responded by asking her: “So you don’t know what a joke is?”
“For years, women working on oil rigs have been bullied, harassed, and abused by male workers,” said Michael Palmer, a partner with Sanford Heisler Sharp. “By filing a class action lawsuit, Ms. Saidman has put Schlumberger on notice that gender discrimination will no longer be buried from public view.”
Schlumberger Turns a Blind Eye to the Treatment of Women on Oil Rigs
The Complaint alleges that Schlumberger makes it nearly impossible for women who have been sexually harassed to find recourse. The Company’s own written harassment policy requires women who have been harassed to first “politely” confront the harasser themselves before seeking assistance from management. The lawsuit chronicles how Schlumberger either ignores sexual harassment complaints entirely, dismisses them as “just oil field talk” or “a joke,” or retaliates against the victim.
“Schlumberger’s perpetual inaction and indifference to instances of women being sexually harassed and discriminated against on oil rigs makes it clear that the Company condones the treatment of women as second-class citizens,” said Sanford Heisler Sharp attorney Nicole Wiitala.
According to the Complaint, Ms. Saidman was repeatedly advised against reporting her experiences to Schlumberger and told to “get over herself,” “learn to deal with it,” and “not make a fuss” because seeking redress from the Company would “backfire” on her and “torpedo” her career. These warnings came to fruition: When Ms. Saidman continued to complain about sexual harassment and discrimination, Schlumberger swiftly retaliated against her by terminating her employment.
“When Ms. Saidman reported egregious examples of sexual harassment and gender discrimination to Schlumberger, she was targeted by the Company. This lawsuit is the only means Ms. Saidman has to remedy the Company’s past wrongs and ensure that women who work on oil rigs are safe from harassment and discrimination,” said Carolin Guentert, an attorney at Sanford Heisler Sharp.