Bain Capital Sued for Gender Discrimination

Bain Capital has been sued for gender discrimination, by a former research librarian who claims she was mistreated after getting pregnant. The complaint was filed last Friday, and can be downloaded here.

I always get a bit squeamish reporting on recently-filed lawsuits, because unrebutted allegations have a habit of sounding both factual and damning. For its part, Bain has released the following statement: “We believe these claims are entirely without merit. We strongly contest the plaintiff’s assertions, and will defend our position vigorously.”

I’ll post Bain’s legal response once it has been filed. In the meantime, onto the allegations:

The plaintiff is Sophia Alexander, who joined Bain Capital as its library manager in August 2004. According to her complaint, Alexander received her first performance review in June 2005, and received mostly high marks — leading to nearly a full bonus. She became pregnant the following February, and informed her boss on March 3, 2006. Eleven days later, Alexander says she was informed that her job performance was not “up to par,” and that she may be demoted to research analyst. The actual demotion came on March 28:

Ms. Alexander asked Mr. Whelan if the demotion had anything to do with her being pregnant, to which he became defensive. During the meeting Mr. Whelan told Ms. Alexander that she should go home and talk it over with her husband and that she would see that it was best for her, and that the company would be more “flexible” with her in her new role which she would need in her “situation.”

Shortly after, Alexander says that Bain began requiring additional documentation about physical therapy appointments that she had been attending for the past year (due to a non-work related injury). She also claims to have been denied tuition reimbursement. On May 16, Alexander requested a meeting with HR supervisor Kathy Rockey, to discuss how she was being treated and about her upcoming maternity leave. According to the complaint, Rockey told her that legal action was “not a game [she] wanted to play with Bain.”

Alexander received her second performance review on June 29, 2006. It did not use the same form as the prior review, and was generally negative. Soon after, she allegedly was given work restrictions such as not being allowed to eat lunch at her desk, and only being allowed to make personal phone calls between 12:30 and 1:30pm.

On August 15, Alexander requested 12 weeks of maternity leave, but was only granted eight. Bain allegedly argued that the time missed for physical therapy counted against her Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time. She complained via an attorney, but apparently to no avail.

Upon her return from maternity leave on January 2, 2007, she returned to find her phone turned off and her desk cleared out. Soon after, she was asked to train another research analyst, who Alexander felt was her replacement. She also claims that Bain insisted she make medical appointments for her child outside of workhours, because she had used up all her “sick time.” Alexander was accused on various acts of insubordination in late January — each of which she denies. She was formally terminated on March 7, 2006.

No word on what Alexander has been doing in the interim, although her Facebook page describes her as an employee of Bain & Co., the management consulting firm from which Bain Capital originally spun out. I’ve left her a message, and will update this post if she responds.