Ex-General Counsel Sues ExlService Holdings for Gender Discrimination, Retaliation

Posted April 29th, 2019.

As It Appeared On
Corporate Counsel

In her lawsuit, Nancy Saltzman says she was fired after complaining about sexual discrimination and wasn’t allowed to attend key company meetings abroad while other executive team members did. The digital intelligence company’s eight-person executive committee is now all male, her attorney points out.

By Sue Reisinger | April 29, 2019 at 04:50 PM

Nancy Saltzman, former general counsel and executive vice president of ExlService Holdings Inc., filed suit Monday against the company and its senior officers alleging she was fired after complaining about sexual discrimination.

New York-based ExlService is a Nasdaq-listed operations management and data analytics services company, showing an annual revenue of $883 million. Its 29,000 employees operate in the United States, Europe, Asia primarily India and Philippines, Latin America, Australia and South Africa. The company did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Saltzman’s attorney, Russell Kornblith, managing partner of Sanford Heisler Sharp’s New York office, told Corporate Counsel, “Two things make this case particularly striking. First, look at the executive leadership team; there is not a single woman on it.” Saltzman was the first and last woman on the team, he said.

The company’s website shows an eight-person executive committee that is all male, including Ajay Ayyappan, who was named general counsel last December to replace Saltzman. He previously served as the company’s deputy general counsel.

It also displays a nine-person, global leadership group that heads various departments or business segments—also all male.

The company’s annual proxy statements filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for the past two years show that the five top paid executives were all males, including the head of human resources and the chief growth officer.

Kornblith said the second striking element of the suit was the “brazen act of retaliation” after Saltzman complained about the discrimination.

According to the complaint, she first talked with CEO and company co-founder Rohit Kapoor about being treated differently from other officers. Kapoor could not be reached for comment.

Although she supposedly controlled her own office budget, the complaint said Kapoor did not allow her to attend key company meetings abroad that all the other members of the executive committee attended. He also would not let her visit her legal staff in other countries, although the other executives visited operations abroad without needing Kapoor’s approval.

The complaint also alleges that at least two other officers were allowed to withhold essential information from her. “Executive vice president and chief financial officer Vishal Chhibbar and executive vice president and chief human resource officer Nalin Miglani instructed their subordinates to withhold pertinent information and documents from [Saltzman], impairing her ability to provide legal advice and undermining her authority,” the complaint states.

In May 2018 Saltzman “reached the breaking point,” the complaint says, when Kapoor directed her to serve cake to junior male employees because “she was one of four ‘ladies’ in attendance.” She told a board member about what she viewed as ongoing gender discrimination led by Kapoor.

Instead of addressing the discrimination charge, Kornblith said the board empowered Kapoor to fire her. After trying unsuccessfully to pressure Saltzman into resigning, the complaint says, the company fired her in July.

The lawsuit filed Monday in the state Supreme Court of New York cites three counts of gender discrimination, retaliation and unlawful discharge under the New York City Human Rights Law. It seeks at least $20 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

“You think about what Nancy went through in her career to win a seat at the table,” Kornblith said. “She worked on Wall Street in the 1990s—not an easy time for a woman. She put up with a lot, but she didn’t claim discrimination around every corner. She put up with [ExlService] for four years, until it was just too much.”

Before joining ExlService in 2014, Saltzman served for nine years as general counsel at Westcon Group Inc. in Tarrytown, New York. Prior to that, she had been associate general counsel at investor relations company Chartwell Re Corp. in Stamford, Connecticut, and worked five years in private practice at what was then Dewey Ballantine.

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