Posted June 23rd, 2020.
By Olivia Pulsinelli
A $100 million class action lawsuit has been filed in Houston against Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB), the world’s largest oil field services company.
Plaintiff Sara Saidman brought the suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging Schlumberger turns “a blind eye to the pattern of sexual harassment, sex (gender) discrimination, and physical danger that women are subjected to” while working on oil rigs. A Schlumberger spokesman told the Houston Business Journal that the company has not been served with the lawsuit. He did not comment further.
Women made up only 5.4% of field roles in Schlumberger as of 2018 and 16.2% of the entire company, according to the company’s pay-gap report for 2018. The lawsuit claims that women who do work on rigs are required to share living quarters — or even a bedroom — with men who work on the rig, “creating an environment that invites harassment and discrimination of women.” The lawsuit also alleges that when formal complaints of discrimination or harassment are filed with the human resource department or managers and supervisors, they often are ignored or dismissed “as ‘just oil field talk’ or ‘a joke,'” and the women allegedly are often “blacklisted” by human resources. The lawsuit also claims that the culture at Schlumberger makes it difficult for women to advance in their careers.
Saidman began her career with Schlumberger as a measurements-while-drilling field engineer in May 2016, per the lawsuit. Based on staffing needs, she moved around to various rigs in Texas, New Mexico, North Dakota and Oklahoma. Although she received a promotion in January 2017, Saidman claims she was “subjected to rampant discrimination and sexual harassment throughout her employment.” For instance, she claims male colleagues with whom she shared a trailer and bedroom on one site allegedly “encouraged the other men who worked on the rig to break into (her) room at night and ignore her if she did not consent to sexual activity,” the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit also describes several other alleged instances of “sexist and hostile comments,” one instance in which she was groped and other negative events.
Eventually, Schlumberger terminated Saidman’s employment in May 2017, which the company claimed was due to policy infractions, the lawsuit states
“However, this was mere pretext,” the lawsuit alleges. “Other Schlumberger employees — most of whom are male — regularly committed the same or far worse infractions, often documenting and flaunting them on public forums. Yet Schlumberger did not discipline or terminate these employees for their policy violations. … Schlumberger intentionally and maliciously terminated Ms. Saidman in retaliation for the many complaints alleging discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation.”
The lawsuit also includes many nonspecific accounts from other unnamed women who worked for Schlumberger and alleged similar behavior from colleagues and superiors. The lawsuit asks the court to certify the case as a class action lawsuit to represent all women who served or currently serve as nonmanagerial employees of Schlumberger in the field at rigs in the United States.
“Schlumberger’s policies, practices, and procedures — including its practice of minimizing, ignoring, mishandling, or otherwise failing to adequately respond to women’s complaints — have allowed the sex discrimination and sexual harassment to which women are subjected to exist on a systemic, Company-wide basis,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit seeks an award of damages under Title VII, including back pay, front pay (in lieu of reinstatement), compensatory damages and punitive damages, in an amount not less than $100 million.
Schlumberger has primary offices in Houston, Paris, London and The Hague.