HOUSTON, July 17, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – Jury selection begins today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in a multi-million-dollar sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation lawsuit filed by a former female engineer against oilfield services giant Schlumberger Technology Corp., with U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt presiding.
Jessica Cheatham’s legal team includes 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. After jurors are selected, Andrew Macurdy will present the opening statement outlining Ms. Cheatham’s gender bias and retaliation claims.
“Ms. Cheatham is a professional engineer who, we will demonstrate, was subjected to extremely unprofessional treatment by Schlumberger,” said Palmer. “Repeatedly exposed to sexual harassment and other discriminatory and illegal workplace behaviors on oil rigs, she was not only ignored, but retaliated against by the company when she informed supervisors and human resources personnel about the sexual remarks and inappropriate behaviors she endured throughout two years of employment.”
Cheatham joined Schlumberger as a field engineer in September 2017 and planned a career with the company; however, almost immediately, she encountered sexually inappropriate comments and discriminatory treatment from the men with whom she worked. Although Cheatham reported the behavior promptly through the company’s established channels, she was told that “men just say that kind of stuff.”
In September 2019, after she again reported gender discrimination through Schlumberger’s established channels, Cheatham was banned from working on many of the oil rigs the company serviced. After filing a formal complaint about the discrimination and retaliatory banning, Schlumberger never staffed her on another rig. In November 2019, Schlumberger officials pressured her to move to Alaska for a job at a lower paygrade, but Cheatham refused the demotion and left the company.
Soon thereafter, she 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, once in December 2020, and again in 2022. In 2020, Judge Hoyt denied the company’s request, ruling Cheatham’s claim included plausible claims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. In an opinion issued on February 2, 2023, the Court ruled the matter should proceed to trial.
“Ms. Cheatham’s engineering career within Schlumberger’s ‘good old boy’ environment was rife with explicit sexual comments, constant sexual innuendo, and overt discrimination,” said Wiitala. “The company’s policies and practices to prevent the kind of workplace hostility she experienced were not followed; instead, when she reported these hostile, demeaning experiences, the company retaliated and derailed her career.”
As of 2022, Houston-based Schlumberger [NYSE:SLB] is both the world’s largest offshore drilling company and largest offshore drilling contractor by revenue. As of December 2022, it was the 179th largest company in the world, with a market cap of $75.139 billion. The company’s first quarter revenue in 2023 was $7.74 billion.
“Ms. Cheatham is looking forward to telling the jury about the challenges she faced as a Schlumberger engineer,” said Macurdy. “She is confident her testimony will not only support her allegations of discrimination, but will also contribute to improvements in the working conditions for other women employed in male-dominated companies that still tolerate harassment and discrimination and promote the persistence of the illegal gender bias she faced.”
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, 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.