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Female executive told ‘ladies’ should cut the cake sues firm for gender discrimination

The CEO of ExlService allegedly “personally directed” senior female staff to serve cake to their subordinates at a party. .
The CEO of ExlService allegedly “personally directed” senior female staff to serve cake to their subordinates at a party. . Getty Images

A lawyer and ex-executive vice-president of ExlService Holdings is suing her former firm for discrimination on the basis of gender after a series of alleged incidents, including one where she says she and other women were told to serve cake to junior employees because they were “ladies.”

ExlService, a New York-based operations management and data analytics company, is accused of marginalizing and disrespecting Nancy Saltzman as well as other women on its team.

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Saltzman, who is being represented in the lawsuit by Sanford Heisler Sharp, worked as general counsel and executive VP from 2014 to 2018, when she was fired. She was the company’s first female executive.

She says she was fired after complaining of “unlawful gender discrimination,” according to a court filing.

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In the filing, she accused ExlService CEO Rohit Kapoor and the other men on the executive committee of stalling her career and undermining her authority.

“For example, CEO Kapoor personally scrutinized Ms. Saltzman’s travel and required her to obtain his express (permission) before travelling to visit her team overseas, which he did not require of equivalent male employees,” the court documents state.

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Kapoor then allegedly criticized Saltzman for not having a “greater enterprise-wide visibility” and not having “enough interaction with clients.”

She also alleges executives withheld information and documents from her, making it hard to provide proper legal advice.

The filing also states that before Saltzman was hired, the president of the company, Pavan Bagai, asked if Saltzman was “attractive” and said: “Oh, she wore a short skirt. That’s good!”

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But Saltzman says “the breaking point” came during the company’s 19th-anniversary party when Kapoor “personally directed” Saltzman and other senior female staff to serve cake at the event.

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“Even after one of the women in attendance pointed out that there were plenty of competent men standing much nearer to CEO Kapoor and to the cake, CEO nonetheless insisted that the ‘ladies’ should cut the cake,” the court filing reads.

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Saltzman called the incident humiliating and said it undermined her authority with the subordinates she was forced to serve.

Saltzman said she brought up the gender discrimination to a board member and explicitly stated she didn’t want to quit.

But a few weeks later, Kapoor requested her immediate resignation, the court filings state.

Saltzman told the Washington Post she was motivated to file a lawsuit “by the number of young women who reached out to me for mentorship and saw my appointment as a symbol of opportunity.”

“Meaningful change depends on women who are willing to speak up and corporate boards who will listen and take them seriously,” Saltzman told the Post in a statement. “Corporate leaders should be focused on fostering diversity, not silencing those who complain of discrimination.”

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Saltzman’s lawyer, Russell Kornblith, told Global News that since the lawsuit was made public, others have come forward.

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“We’ve definitely been contacted by other women who experienced similar discrimination and who witnessed the discrimination that Nancy experienced and have offered their help and support,” he said.

Kornblith also pointed out that without Saltzman on the executive team, the company’s leadership is exclusively male.

“This company has a major problem with diversity,” Kornblith said. “In an age where companies are starting to pay attention to diversity and a lot of companies are trumpeting their diversity, EXL is startlingly tone deaf in that regard.”

ExlService did not reply to a request for comment from Global News by the time of publication.