Hydie Sumner’s ongoing battle with Wall Street took a new twist on Wednesday. It’s been ten years of legal wrangling with her former employer, Merrill Lynch. But today it’s another firm at the center of the Sumner drama—Wachovia Securities, which fired her yesterday.
Sumner contends the firm’s decision to fire her is directly related to her efforts at fighting discrimination in the industry. "It is my belief that this action was deeply tied to my ongoing struggle to fight bias in this industry. My unwavering goal has been to be a part of the pattern and practice of positive change. It is a sad statement that someone like me, who asks questions and is proactive in activities that will ultimately result in the betterment of the industry, is consistently ostracized. I will continue to be an advocate for equal opportunities for anyone in the industry to the best of my abilities,” she said in a statement.
But Wachovia says her dismissal was about performance, not discrimination. "Ms. Sumner, a seasoned broker, was terminated for failing to produce at levels that a junior associate typically would meet and for failing to come to the office except on rare occasions despite repeated requests to do so. Wachovia Securities is committed to creating an environment where people who work here and people who do business with us are treated fairly and with respect regardless of differences. Ms. Sumner was terminated for performance reasons and any claims that she was terminated as a result of discrimination are completely without merit," Wachovia said in a sattement of its own.
Sumner has been with Wachovia since mid-2003, when the firm merged with Prudential Securities, where she had worked for six years. Prior to that, she was employed for six years at Merrill Lynch in its San Antonio, Tex. offices.
In 1997, Sumner and 900 other female employees of Merrill Lynch filed a class action gender discrimination suit against the firm. Though a majority of the women involved accepted the initial monetary settlement offered by Merrill, about ten women took their cases to arbitration hearings.
Sumner was one of those women and was awarded $2.2 million in 2004. The strange part? Sumner is still fighting to get her old job back at Merrill. (Click here to read more on that.) On April 9, an arbitration panel upheld the July 2004 decision calling for Merrill to give Sumner a job at its San Antonio branch.
Sumner’s lawyer, Linda Friedman, was not available for comment.