Investment Management Giant Sued for Gender Discrimination

BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, is being sued by a former employee who claims she was fired for being pregnant.

Violeta Gjonaj was hired by BlackRock in 2015 as an executive assistant, according to the complaint. She claims to have received positive performance reviews, bonuses, and promotions.

In February 2017, while on a trip with a coworker, Gjonaj fell and broke her nose. When she returned to work human resources and security personnel at BlackRock alleged that she was the victim of domestic violence.

Gjonaj claims that, other than this incident, she never showed up to work with visible injuries. In July 2017 when coworkers said that it looked like she had a black eye, Gjonaj claimed that she did not, but was accused of covering it up with makeup.

Gjonaj offered to have the coworker she was traveling with when the fall occurred submit a statement backing up her account, but human resources representatives would not accept it.

“BlackRock then threatened to terminate Ms. Gjonaj, saying that [it] could not trust [her] judgment if she allowed herself to be in a dangerous situation without asking for assistance.”

BlackRock required Gjonaj to present a note from her therapist vouching for her “sound judgment,” according to the complaint. Gjonaj provided the note but was demoted shortly thereafter.

In December 2017, after finding out she was pregnant, Gjonaj notified her supervisor at BlackRock. In January Gjonaj received a note from an employee relations manager questioning how Gjonaj had reported some hours. 

BlackRock questioned Gjonaj’s reporting of certain hours as overtime, such as when she was she was required to be available on weekends as needed or worked from home. Gjonaj claims that her first supervisor at BlackRock had instructed her to include such time, she did so throughout her employment there, and was never instructed otherwise.

Gjonaj was then terminated “due to the ‘suspicion of falsification.’” Gjonaj claims, however that she was actually fired because she was pregnant and perceived to be a victim of domestic abuse, in violation of the law.

Gjonaj is represented by Walter Harman of New York City who filed the case in the Southern District of New York.