Oil workers urged to break into woman’s room on rig to assault her, $100M lawsuit says

Posted June 24th, 2020.

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Oil workers urged to break into woman’s room on rig to assault her, $100M lawsuit says

By Chacour Koop

A $100 million class-action lawsuit against the world’s largest oilfield services company describes rampant sexual harassment and discrimination of women.

Texas-based Schlumberger is accused of fostering a “terrorizing environment” for women who work on oil rigs overwhelmingly staffed by men and located in isolated areas where they’re forced to sleep in shared rooms. This means women live and work with their harassers, according to the lawsuit.

Attorneys representing Sara Saidman, a former employee who began working for the company fresh out of college, filed the lawsuit in a Houston federal court.

“For years, women working on oil rigs have been bullied, harassed, and abused by male workers,” her attorney, Michael Palmer, said in a news release. “By filing a class action lawsuit, Ms. Saidman has put Schlumberger on notice that gender discrimination will no longer be buried from public view.”

A spokesperson for Schlumberger told McClatchy News the company typically does not comment on ongoing litigation.

In 2016, Saidman accepted a field engineer job with the company shortly after graduation, working on oil rigs in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and North Dakota. She quickly excelled in her new job, helping set a new company record for drilling and earning a promotion after eight months, the lawsuit says.

She also quickly learned reporting sexual harassment to human resources could “backfire,” according to the lawsuit.

A year before Saidman joined the company, a 26-year-old woman employed found a secret camera disguised as a clothes hook attached to her bedroom door, CNN reported. That woman accused Schlumberger supervisors of dismissing her concerns, a separate lawsuit says. The woman was identified only as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, which was dismissed for want of prosecution in 2018, court records show.

Saidman experienced sexual harassment just days after arriving at her first rig assignment in New Mexico to when she was ultimately fired after working in Texas.

These are some of the accusations in the lawsuit filed June 23:

  • Shortly after starting, a supervisor told Saidman not to wear shorts outside “because she had ‘a great ass’ and it was ‘too distracting’ for men on the rig. The supervisor said her butt was the discussion topic at a morning safety meeting. When she expressed discomfort with his comments, the man replied she did “have a great ass, though.”
  • In North Dakota, an employee boasted frequently to Saidman that male employees hired “hookers and strippers” from Las Vegas and flew them to the state.
  • Saidman was instructed to go to another rig on her last day at a New Mexico work site to respond to an “incident.” It was a man with knives threatening the crew. When she reported it, a coordinator ignored the concerns and told her to “babysit” the man and “clean up his mess.”
  • She was warned at a Texas rig to carry a knife at all times because the crew members were “animals.”
  • While sleeping at offsite lodging in Texas, a strange man sneaked into her room in the middle of the night. He left only after she ordered him to multiple times. After learning about the incident, one of the men sharing a two-bedroom trailer with Saidman began telling other workers to enter her room at night and continue with sexual advances even if she resisted because that’s her “kink,” saying “the more she screams, the more she wants it.”

A day after Saidman finalized a written complaint of harassment and discrimination, she was called into a meeting to be notified of driving policy infractions, according to the lawsuit. She was suspended while the company investigated.

Saidman was fired about a month later in May 2017. The lawsuit accuses Schlumberger of terminating Saidman in retaliation for complaining about discrimination and sexual harassment.

The class-action lawsuit seeks to represent all women who worked for the company at oil rigs in the U.S. It seeks at least $100 million in damages.

“For the women at Schlumberger who occupy a razor-thin slice of field-based positions on oil rigs —approximately 5% of available positions — the picture is grim,” the lawsuit says. “Women who work on oil rigs confront not just a glass ceiling, but an impenetrable rock and shale fortress.”

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