On December 18, 2006, three female, officer-level, former employees filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all current and former female officers and officer equivalents employed by Willis Holdings Group, Ltd. since 1998. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII, the Human Rights Laws of the State and City of New York, and the New York Administrative Code § 8-107 against Willis Holdings, Ltd. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court for a permanent injunction prohibiting the company and its employees from engaging in discriminatory practices, back pay and other job benefits, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys' fees, claiming that the company had discriminated against them on the basis of sex. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that Willis Group knew about the existence of a glass ceiling but did nothing to remedy it, had a pattern of paying female employees substantially less than male employees doing similar work, refused to consider female candidates for promotions, steered more business toward male employees, required females to complete a higher volume of work than similarly situated males, scrutinized females more heavily than similarly situated males, and terminated female employees who brought attention to the discrimination.
On September 17, 2007, the Court (Judge Gerard E. Lynch) denied a motion to dismiss filed by the defendants, finding that the plaintiffs had not met the administrative requirements for maintaining a Title VII lawsuit or alternatively, that the plaintiffs' claims were subject to mandatory arbitration.
On July 3, 2008, the plaintiffs submitted an amended complaint containing additional individual allegations for two of the named plaintiffs, neither of whom stated any individual allegations in the initial complaint. The additional allegations reference discriminatory hiring practices, compensation, promotions, and treatment in the workplace.
On November 20, 2008, Judge Lynch granted the defendant's motion to compel arbitration for the individual claims of one of the named plaintiffs and dismissed those claims from the lawsuit, due to a prominent arbitration clause in her employment contract.
On October 18, 2011, Judge Lynch filed a preliminary approval order, certifying, for settlement purposes, a proposed class of women employed in Willis Group's New York office in officer or officer-equivalent positions between 2002 and 2007.
On December 19, 2011, Judge Lynch approved the consent decree. Willis Group agreed to conduct performance evaluations of all its employees based on observable behavior, set forth in writing the criteria on which compensation decisions are made, post vacancies so that all current employees may apply, investigate all discrimination claims made to Human Resources in a timely manner, and submit any changes in policy to a court-approved monitor. In addition, Willis Group agreed to pay $11,595,030.85 to members of the class. The amount included attorneys' fees. Katherine Reineck - 02/01/2015