Schlumberger Technology Corporation Gender Discrimination Case

Case name: Sara Saidman and Jessica Cheatham v. Schlumberger Technology Corporation

Case type: Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

Filed in: [U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas]

Docket: [Case no.: 4:20-cv-02193]

Case Summary

On June 23, 2020, Sanford Heisler Sharp filed a class action lawsuit alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act against oil and gas behemoth Schlumberger Technology Corporation, on behalf of plaintiff Sara Saidman, a former Schlumberger field engineer, and other female employees. On September 1, 2020, the firm filed an Amended Complaint, adding Jessica Cheatham as a plaintiff.

The Complaint detailed the alleged gender discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and retaliation that women like Ms. Cheatham and Ms. Saidman were forced to endure at Schlumberger, where 95% of employees are male, and the women who do work on oil rigs are groped, sexually harassed, leered at and called “cunts.” While management turns a blind eye to the abuse, the Complaint alleged, Schlumberger ensures that women who work on rigs nationwide are left vulnerable by forcing them to share living quarters (typically a small trailer) with one or more men.

Ms. Saidman alleged that she reached her breaking point when one of her male colleagues (with whom she was forced to share living quarters) encouraged other men to break into her bedroom while she was sleeping and ignore her if she resisted their sexual advances, assuring them that Ms. Saidman “likes it whether or not she wants it” and “the more she screams, the more she wants it.” Ms. Saidman alleged that she reported these comments to a human resources representative, who responded by asking her: “So you don’t know what a joke is?”

In the Amended Complaint, Mr. Cheatham alleged that one of her male colleagues threatened to “bend [her] over [his] knee and spank [her]” and used inappropriate and crude sexual language when teaching her how to use a certain tool (such as describing one part of the tool as “the pussy”). When Ms. Cheatham complained to Human Resources, she was told, “Guys just do that. This is a man’s field, so they’re bound to say stuff.”

On another occasion, according to the Complaint, Ms. Cheatham was accused of performing “special favors” of a sexual nature in order to get a promotion. Ms. Cheatham also alleges that male workers requested that she be replaced by a man, refused to train her, and told her that she would not be successful as a field employee.

Ms. Cheatham alleged that she reported the sexual harassment and gender discrimination to Schlumberger on multiple occasions, but her complaints were either discounted or ignored entirely. Ultimately, according to the Complaint, Schlumberger retaliated against Ms. Cheatham for complaining about discrimination by refusing to staff her on any rig unless she accepted a significant demotion and took a position in Alaska. Ms. Cheatham alleged that she was wrongfully and constructively discharged as a result of Schlumberger’s actions.

In late 2022, the Court was notified that the case would proceed as an individual action brought on behalf of Jessica Cheatham.  The Court subsequently denied a motion by Schlumberger, ruling that “the plaintiff’s pleadings and proffered evidence could lead a jury to find that gender discrimination, retaliation and constructive discharge occurred[.]”

The case went to trial in July 2023.