Former Booz Allen partner alleging sex discrimination in lawsuit

August 14, 2011

A former Booz Allen Hamilton partner, who once was the company’s highest-ranking female employee, is suing the McLean-based contractor, alleging that the company fired her because of her sex and that it intentionally excludes women from high-level leadership positions.

Molly Finn, who long worked on Booz Allen’s environmental business, has filed a sex discrimination suit against the company and some of its top officials — including chief executive, Chairman and President Ralph W. Shrader — in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia’s civil division.

In a statement, Booz Allen Hamilton said it does not comment publicly on personnel issues but vowed to fight the suit.

“We are aware of Ms. Finn’s allegations and strenuously deny them,” the company said. “Because of our strong belief in the merits of our position, we intend to contest her claims through the litigation process.”

Finn started with Booz Allen in 1986, at age 22, according to the suit. Focusing on work for the Environmental Protection Agency, she quickly moved up the ranks. In 1998, she became a partner and in 2003, she was promoted to the “level 3” lead partner position, the suit said.

In 2007, when Finn was assessed for advancement to the next level, she was not promoted and her reviewers told her to stop saying “pro-woman, feminist things,” she alleges. The suit says company officials, particularly Shrader, singled her out and opposed her promotion.

In 2008, the suit said, she sought another review and was promoted to the fourth level. But in 2010, Finn claims in the suit she was asked to leave the company.

The suit describes top company leadership as unwelcoming to women, holding events such as golf trips to Scotland that never included them.

It alleges that Finn was fired because of her sex and her family responsibilities, which reflects a pattern of bias. The suit requests that the court order Booz Allen to reinstate her as a partner and award her back pay, benefits, bonuses and other compensation as well as damages for the pain and emotional distress she has suffered. An initial scheduling conference is set for late October.

Even though Booz Allen declined to comment on the case, the company pointed to current and former female employees who say they have had positive experiences with the company.

One such female former employee is DeAnne Aguirre, now a senior partner at Booz & Co. in San Francisco. She said she was part of Booz Allen Hamilton’s leadership team — as chief personnel officer — and board of directors.

Aguirre, who worked at Booz Allen from 1991 until the split between Booz Allen and the commercial Booz & Co. business in 2008, said she rose through the ranks, from becoming partner in 1995 to senior partner in 2005. She was elected to a three-year term on the board in 2004.

Aguirre also noted that she has four children and requested multiple office transfers because of her husband’s job, all of which the company accommodated.

“I did feel very supported,” she said.

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