Posted June 23rd, 2020.
By David Yates
HOUSTON – Today Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP filed a class action lawsuit 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 U.S.
The Complaint documents a longstanding pattern of abuse in which Schlumberger knowingly permits women who work on male-dominated oil rigs to be sexually harassed, assaulted, and discriminated against by their male colleagues.
The Plaintiff is represented by Michael D. Palmer, Nicole E. Wiitala, and Carolin E. Guentert of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP and Todd Slobin and Melinda Arbuckle of Shellist Lazarz Slobin LLP.
According to a press release, men dominate oil rigs. Women make up only 5 percent 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.
According to the press release, 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,” the press release states
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.”
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.
Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP is a national public interest class-action litigation law firm, which has offices in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, San Diego, Nashville, and Baltimore.