HOUSTON, July 11, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The trial in Jessica Cheatham’s multi-million lawsuit against oilfield services giant Schlumberger Technology Corporation asserting that the company permits rampant sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the field starts Monday, July 17 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston, with U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt scheduled to preside.
Cheatham is represented by Michael D. Palmer, Nicole E. Wiitala, Andrew Macurdy, and Carolin Guentert of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP, Todd Slobin of Shellist Lazaraz Slobin LLP, and Melinda Arbuckle of Wage and Hour Firm.
“As a Schlumberger engineer, Ms. Cheatham was subjected to a barrage of sexual harassment and hostile, discriminatory workplace behavior simply because she was a female employee in a male-dominated workplace,” said Palmer. “The company’s repeated lack of success in getting her claims dismissed demonstrates the strength of the evidence and the extent to which the conditions in which she was forced to work not only violated Title VII, but were unconscionable.”
Cheatham was employed by Schlumberger as a field engineer on its Texas oil rigs starting in September 2017 and had wanted to ultimately retire with the company. Early in her employment, however, she was harassed by a male colleague who used sexually explicit terms in demonstrating how to use tools and made other sexually suggestive remarks. Although she reported this to the company’s HR department, inappropriate sexual and discriminatory comments from other men continued.
In September 2019, after Cheatham again reported gender discrimination to a supervisor, she was told that she was banned from working on many of the rigs serviced by Schlumberger. Following a formal complaint about the discrimination and retaliatory banning, Cheatham discovered that she was effectively blacklisted, never staffed on another rig for Schlumberger. In November 2019, Schlumberger officials pressured Cheatham to move to Alaska and accept a job at a lower paygrade. Refusing to accept the proposed demotion, Cheatham left the Schlumberger in January 2020.
She subsequently joined an existing gender bias suit filed against Schlumberger by Sanford Heisler Sharp attorneys in April 2020 on behalf of Sara Saidman, a female engineer who alleged similar sexual harassment and discrimination as an employee on the company-serviced oil rigs. Cheatham is now the sole plaintiff in the case.
Schlumberger unsuccessfully attempted to dismiss Cheatham’s claims twice, once in December 2020, and more recently late last year. In 2020, Judge Hoyt denied the company’s request, ruling Cheatham’s claim included plausible claims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. In a 10-page opinion on February 2, 2023, he ruled the matter should proceed to trial with the final decision left to a jury.
As of 2022, Houston-based Schlumberger [NYSE:SLB] is both the world's largest offshore drilling company and the world's largest offshore drilling contractor by revenue. Its first quarter revenue in 2023 was $7.74 billion.
“Ms. Cheatham will demonstrate at trial that Schlumberger’s ‘good old boy’ workplace environment thrives on the explicit sexual comments, constant sexual innuendo, and overt discrimination that she was subjected to while working on its oil rigs as an engineer,” said Nicole Wiitala. “Although it purports to have policies and practices in place to prevent and respond to such acts of gender hostility, the company retaliated against Ms. Cheatham after she reported these illegal behaviors.”
“Ms. Cheatham looks forward to sharing her experiences with a jury,” said Macurdy. “She is confident her testimony will not only prove her case, but will ultimately help improve the working conditions for women who work in male-dominated companies that still tolerate harassment and discrimination and promote the persistence of gender bias.”
The case is Cheatham v. Schlumberger Technology Corp., case number 4:20-cv-02193. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
About Sanford Heisler Sharp
Sanford Heisler Sharp is a public interest and civil rights law firm with offices in New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Atlanta, Baltimore, Nashville, and San Diego. The firm focuses on employment discrimination, Title IX, wage and hour, whistleblower and qui tam, criminal/sexual violence, financial services, and Asian American litigation and finance matters. Our lawyers have recovered over $1 billion for our clients through many verdicts and settlements.
In 2022, The National Law Journal named Sanford Heisler Sharp Civil Rights Firm of the Year, and it recognized the firm in 2021 as both the Employment Rights Firm of the Year and the Human Rights Firm of the Year. Law360 recognized the firm as Employment Practice Group of the Year in 2021, 2019, 2018, and 2016. Benchmark Litigation recognized the firm as the Labor & Employment Firm of the Year in 2021 and 2020.
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