The former acting general counsel and chief compliance officer at New York-based Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings America Inc. has sued the company in federal court, alleging that she is the victim of gender discrimination.
Her suit describes the company as “a culture devoid of any real diversity or equality for women.”
The plaintiff, Jennifer Fischman, accuses Mitsubishi of passing her over for the permanent role of GC and COO in favor of a less-qualified, younger and less-experienced male attorney, according to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York earlier this month.
The suit also alleges that Fischman was illegally fired after speaking out against wrongful discrimination against herself and other female employees.
“The Company went out of its way to support its discrimination by laying a false foundation for its conduct, first in Ms. Fischman’s demotion and then in her termination,” the complaint, filed by attorneys at Valli Kane & Vagnini, said. In addition to affiliated Mitsubishi companies, it also names as defendants the current GC, former GC and current president and 10 anonymous Mitsubishi directors, officers and board members. The suit seeks an undetermined amount of money damages.
Neither the plaintiff’s attorney nor a representative for Mitsubishi was immediately available for comment.
According to the complaint, Fischman, on the basis of annual high performance evaluations, moved up through the ranks of Mitsubishi’s legal department, first as corporate counsel from 2009 to 2012 and then as assistant GC beginning in 2013.
At the end of 2014, then-GC Donna Costa told Fischman that beginning in April 2015, Costa would be promoted to president and Fischman to acting GC and COO. Costa also said it would be unlikely that Fischman would ever be promoted to that role on anything more than a temporary basis, despite her strong performance as assistant general counsel.
“Ms. Fischman understood Ms. Costa’s statement that she would be promoted to General Counsel on an ‘acting’ basis to mean that the Company would not tolerate another woman in its executive leadership,” according to the complaint. “Women are not meaningfully represented within the senior levels of Mitsubishi, and during the relevant time only two (2) women had any significant role at the senior levels of the Company.”
In December 2015, Nicolas Oliva took Fischman’s place and became GC and COO, after which Fischman was demoted back to assistant GC and began voicing her complaints of gender discrimination to Oliva, human resources officials and senior company leaders.
In early 2017, Fischman was fired for a supposed breach of her professional ethics for allegedly approving a settlement counterproposal extended by Mitsubishi’s outside counsel, without first obtaining the required consent and approval of the company executives in Japan.
“The lack of female leadership at the upper echelons of this company is astounding and shameful,” Fischman’s attorney Sara Wyn Kane said in a statement. “While the glass ceiling may have some cracks in it, we as a society need to break through completely.”