Wall Street Gets Its First Gay Rights Lawsuit
Joe Daniels
Joe Daniel Charges Anti-Gay Discrimination by Firm 

Dresdner & Its Chief Executive, George Fugelsang, Sued 

Compiled By GayToday
 The world's first Wall Street gay discrimination lawsuit has been filed against Dresdner Bank/Dresdner Kleinwort Benson. The North American arm of Dresdner and George Fugelsang, its chief executive officer, are being sued by a former chief of staff, Joe Daniel, who alleges he was denied a promotion, then fired, after the firm discovered he was gay.

The firm offered Daniel the position of vice president in June 1996 and Fugelsang circulated a memo announcing the promotion to all departments within the bank. A few days after Fugelsang learned Daniel was gay, the promotion was revoked. Seven working days after inquiring as to whether the firm could grant domestic partners of gay employees equivalent health benefits, Daniel was fired.

Daniel has master's degrees from both Harvard and Yale. He had previously been promoted twice by Dresdner. Despite his impeccable record, Daniel's attorney Madeline Bryer states "he was fired because  they learned that he was gay."

Dresdner has attempted to force the issue into private arbitration, rather than face a public courtroom trial. Recent court rulings and settlements involving sexual discrimination cases at Merrill Lynch and Salomon Smith Barney have involved use of impartial third party arbitrators by federal court order, but Dresdner seeks an industry panel composed of securities industry executives.

All securities industry employees sign an agreement known as a U4 as a condition of employment. Such agreements require the use of private  arbitration panels versus public courtrooms to settle disputes. Many  believe it is not possible to strip an individual of rights in this way, and the case will test such arbitration agreements. As Suzanne Goldberg of Lambda Legal Defense comments, "Taking away people's legal  rights and ability to claim protection in exchange for giving them a job is unfair. It shifts the entire playing field in the employer's favor."

Perhaps key among the reasons this is the first Wall Street lawsuit is the conservative nature of the industry itself and the reluctance of gay  Wall Streeters to "out" themselves. As Leah Spiro, associate editor of  Business Week magazine puts it, "Once you expose yourself, come out of  the closet and go against your employer, you're never going to work in this business again, and that's a real high cost to pay." Daniel agrees and told GayToday that "it wasn't just the single injustice of gay  discrimination...they've [also] ruined my career."

"Wall Street has been able to get away with it because people have been  afraid to stand up and fight them," states Bryer. Dresdner, which could be on the hook for $75 million in the ongoing lawsuit, has declined any substantive comment. However, Wall Street traders, according to the magazine Euromoney, "...have been laying odds that Joe  Daniel will walk away with a bundle and Dresdner could be creamed."