The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit today against Morgan Stanley, alleging the firm discriminated against a former convertible bond sales representative and as many as 100 other women in the company’s institutional equity division.

The suit was not unexpected. The EEOC and Morgan Stanley have been in discussions to settle the case, which was filed with the EEOC in 1998 by a female broker at the firm.

The EEOC also alleges that Morgan Stanley retaliated against the broker, Allison Schieffelin, a former convertible bond sales rep. The commission states the firm fired her after Schieffelin voiced her opposition to discriminatory practices at the firm.

Morgan Stanley denies the retaliation charge. “[Schieffelin] was dismissed after she initiated an abusive verbal and physical confrontation with her boss--the woman who got the job she is suing over,” Morgan Stanley spokesperson Judy Hitchen said.

The EEOC suit charges the firm with engaging “in a pattern or practice of discrimination against women in the Institutional Equity Division who held positions as associate, vice president, principal, and managing director by compensating them less than their male colleagues and by limiting their opportunities for professional advancement.”

Morgan Stanley denies that charge as well. “Mutual respect and nondiscrimination are core values here and if we have to go to court to prove them, we will,” Hitchen said. “We flatly reject the EEOC contentions that Schieffelin was discriminated against. … She was the highest-paid salesperson on her desk, and the job she claims she was denied because of gender bias in fact went to another woman.”

The EEOC had harsh words for both Morgan Stanley and the industry.

“By advancing free marketplace principles, Wall Street has led our nation to its position of global economic pre-eminence,” said EEOC Chair Cari Dominguez. “Our laws and our citizens now demand that those same principles that have worked so well in the marketplace be applied to the workplace … I urge the securities industry--and all employers--to continue to take an aggressive, proactive role in removing workplace barriers, whether attitudinal or organizational, that deprive women of the freedom to compete and to achieve to their fullest potential.”

“Morgan Stanley systematically denied opportunities for equal compensation and advancement to a class of professional women,” said New York District Director Spencer H. Lewis Jr., who investigated and attempted to settle the case prior to filing suit, according to the EEOC. “By filing this pattern or practice case, the EEOC seeks to remedy these illegal practices and send a message that discrimination will not be tolerated in this or any other industry,” Lewis said.

To view the EEOC press release and complete comments by the EEOC, go to www.eeoc.gov.

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