Former CVC Capital Partners managing director of investor relations Lisa Lee has sued the private equity firm, alleging she was fired after complaining of sexual discrimination and harassment at the firm.
Lee, who worked at CVC from October 2009 to February 2015, alleges male supervisors and coworkers subjected her and other women to unwanted physical contact and “demeaning and denigrating” comments, and says she was denied promotions and professional opportunities that were given instead to male colleagues.
The suit also alleges that when Lee took her maternity leave in 2012, CVC attempted to strip her of her accounts and redistribute them to her male coworkers.
“The claims by this former employee are without merit, and we will defend our position vigorously,” a CVC spokesperson told Private Equity International's sister title pfm via email. The firm plans to respond more fully in six weeks’ time, he added.
The complaint, filed in the US District Court of Southern New York last week, alleges that CVC fosters an environment that “disfavors female employees and engaged in discriminatory procedures in selecting individuals for promotion.”
Lee was the only female business-side managing director out of 37 directors and managing directors during her time at the firm, the lawsuit states. Lee, who is Asian-American, also alleges that there is a “severe” under-representation of racial minorities at the firm.
After speaking out in writing in January 2015 about the “systemic gender discrimination” she faced, the next day Lee was allegedly told she was being terminated.
Lee then took a position as managing director of business development at Providence Equity Partners, at which time CVC deemed her new employment as “behaving competitively” and considered her a “bad leaver,” the suit says. This resulted in the involuntary forfeiture of more than $10 million in equity compensation, deferred compensation and commissions, according to Lee.
Lee is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, along with other appropriate legal and equitable relief pursuant to New York City Human Rights Law, the Family and Medical Leave Act and New York Labor Law.
Providence and Lee’s legal counsel, Outten & Golden, did not respond to requests for comment.