A former vice president at Goldman Sachs was repeatedly subject to homophobic comments, including being cut from a client call because he “sounded too gay,” and was “abruptly fired” when he complained about the discrimination, according to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday.
William Littleton’s complaint claims he was “widely considered a rising star and future leader at Goldman,” where he had worked for eight years at the time of his firing, according to a press release. During his tenure at the company, Littleton was heavily involved in the company’s LGBT Network and became “one of the most proud, active and vocal LGBTQ leaders at Goldman,” the lawsuit claims.
But the 31-year-old Texas native says he was “well aware that being openly gay at a financial institution could lead to discrimination and ridicule,” according to the 28-page complaint, which was filed in the New York State Supreme Court.
His boss, during a disagreement in a meeting, allegedly asked him: “What’s wrong with you? Do you act this way because you’re gay?”
“It was like this terrible nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from,” Littleton told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “I was dumbfounded, shocked and helpless.”
In another meeting, Littleton, who is Latino, claims that after he walked in dressed as he did every other day—in a button-down business shirt tucked into dress slacks—another boss looked him up and down and said: “You look so Miami today.” The comment was “a thinly veiled alternative to simply telling Mr. Littleton that he ‘looked like a gay Latino,’” the lawsuit states.
That same supervisor allegedly said, when Littleton was absent from a meeting in June 2015: “Oh, Will’s not in? He must be hungover from pride festivities.”
Littleton complained about his bosses’ conduct after another LGBT Network leader encouraged him to do so, telling employee relations that he “felt discriminated against on the basis of his sexual orientation, was subject to a hostile work environment, and was marginalized by the leadership on his team.”
Despite positive reviews during a Nov. 2018 evaluation, “directly” after Littleton filed his discrimination complaint, he was informed that he would be fired over “performance issues,” the complaint states.
“When I joined Goldman and we had our new hire orientation, they spoke about the supposed premium and value that they placed on diversity, and I wanted to believe it,” Littleton told The Daily Beast, noting that he was shocked by the comments—and the response to his complaints.
That’s why he’s suing.
“At the highest level, I want to hold Goldman accountable and want to make sure that they’re putting safeguards in place to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anybody else,” Littleton said.
“I never thought that I would in a million years be involved in something so public,” he added. “But after being at the firm and what I’ve seen go on there, it’s absolutely clear that I don’t just owe it to myself—I owe it to my community to bring this conversation to the forefront.”
“If I can be in some way an agent of positive change, this to me is all worth it,” Littleton added.
A spokesperson for the company told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that it “has a sustained and proven commitment to diversity, and we are proud of the vibrant and diverse LGBTQ community at the firm.”
He added, “We strongly encourage all of our employees to bring their authentic selves to work, because it makes us a better firm. This suit is without merit and we plan to defend ourselves against these baseless claims.”
Littleton’s attorney, David Gottlieb, countered: “Mr. Littleton’s experiences demonstrate that Goldman Sachs in particular has failed to embrace this important responsibility. We intend to send a message to all businesses in New York, and Goldman in particular, that this type of treatment towards LGBTQ+ employees will not be tolerated.”
Littleton is seeking unspecified damages and has asked for a jury trial.