Male underwriters at insurance giant AIG are interested in more than risk — they’re downright fascinated with risque.
In a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, a former female employee of the firm alleges that male workers crawled under the desks of female employees.
Marlee Valenti, 34, of Manhattan, says she was “subjected to repeated instances where she was groped, licked or forced to endure other forms of physical harassment from male employees” after she was transferred to a new department in 2012.
Valenti says her career was soaring before that point.
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After joining the company in 2009, she said she was promoted to the position of senior underwriter within a year and won multiple company awards for her performance.
That changed when she was transferred to another department, known officially as the Public Management Liability Commercial Lines Division, but known unofficially as “the boy’s club” because only 10% of its employees were women, she claims.
In court papers, Valenti says she was "truly shocked at some of the conduct" of her male co-workers, many of whom were former college athletes.
For example, court papers say, "on multiple occasions, male employees would sneak under the desks of female employees in order to look up their skirts. Valenti witnessed multiple instances of this occurring and heard about several more from female colleagues in her division."
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Court papers say Valenti "believed it was pointless to report such conduct" because her direct supervisor, Michael Donnelly, "was a willing participant in such behavior as were other supervisors in the Corporate Accounts Division."
The papers say that in addition to physical and verbal harassment, Valenti encountered professional hostility as well, particularly from Donnelly who "began to show clear disdain" for her.
When she got a formal written performance warning in September 2013, she says, most of the issues were "false or were for things" that male employees got no warnings about. She said her biggest account was taken from her without warning and she was denied other opportunities as supervisors increasingly ignored her.
In December 2013, when she learned that her colleagues were "speaking negatively" about her to others in the industry, the papers say, Valenti submitted a 150-page response "complete with evidence" about the harassment.
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A month later, she was fired after AIG brass did "a perfunctory investigation" and found no wrongdoing, she claims.
AIG issued a statement Monday saying the company "is committed to providing a workplace that is free from sexual harassment. However, we believe this suit and the claims it makes are without merit, and we will defend the matter vigorously."
Donnelly, who was named as a defendant, could not be reached for comment.Send a Letter to the Editor