The folks at Nomura, the Japanese investment banking giant, really know how to tick off women.
According to the New York Post, Nomura has asked George Comfort & Sons, the owners of Nomura’s sparkling new offices at Worldwide Plaza, in New York, to install fewer women’s toilets on the 4th through 7th floors of the 59-story building. While the city’s plumbing code requires “water closets, lavatories” (as well as showers or bathtubs) to be equally divided between the sexes ”based on the percentage of each sex anticipated in the occupant load,” the rule can be bypassed if “statistical data approved by the commissioner indicate a different distribution of the sexes.”
Comfort seems to be using that loophole to its advantage. According to the Post, in a document filed with the buildings department earlier this year, Comfort argued that for “certain financial-services operations” (presumably trading) the population at Nomura was historically comprised of 75 percent men and 25 percent women. The document also promises that if Nomura stops leasing any of those floors, Comfort would reinstate equal bathrooms or risk losing its Certificate of Occupancy, the Post reports.
Representatives from both Nomura and George Comfort & Sons declined to comment, and the Buildings Department told ABC News it was “working on a statement.”
Women’s groups are enraged. “It’s completely outrageous,” said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, told ABC News. “Comfort shouldn’t even be advancing this request. They should be telling their tenant ‘no.’ It makes me wonder: How many women are in the C Suite at George Comfort? How many women are on the board of directors? What the hell is George Comfort doing passing this request on?”
Brian Heller, an attorney at the employment law firm Schwartz and Perry, questioned the legality of Nomura’s request.
“They are literally cementing the disparity between the number of men and number of women,” he told ABC News. “They’re saying, ‘We have no plans to hire women so there’s no need to accommodate them in the construction of restrooms.’”
While New York State employers can legally hire, fire, demote or cut employee’s pay at will, they “cannot take action because of a protected reason like gender, race, age, disability,” he said. ”I don’t know if any individual can sue over a building design. But it sounds like the company is sending a clear message that there are only a limited number of women they are going to allow to work there. If there is a woman who is having difficulty advancing in the company, this is a signal about how they view women.”