Posted on 18 Aug 2011
A federal judge dismissed a long-running Equal Employee Opportunity Commission lawsuit against financial news and media company Bloomberg LP, alleging the company routinely discriminated against pregnant women and new mothers.
U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan said the EEOC failed to demonstrate Bloomberg engaged in "a pattern or practice" of discrimination.
Instead, the judge said Bloomberg, as a standard operating procedure, increased compensation for women returning from maternity leave more than for those who took similarly lengthy leaves, and didn't reduce the responsibilities of women returning from maternity leave any more than of those who also took lengthy leaves.
" 'J'accuse!' is not enough in court. Evidence is required," the judge said in a 64-page decision. "The evidence presented in this case is insufficient to demonstrate that discrimination was Bloomberg's standard operating procedure, even if there were several isolated instances of individual discrimination."
In its lawsuit filed in 2007, the EEOC alleged that Bloomberg reduced pay for pregnant women or women who just returned from maternity leave, demoted them, excluded them from management or subjected them to stereotypes about female caregivers in violation of U.S. law.
Judge Preska acknowledged that individuals who decide to spend more time with their families might face hurdles to advancement in the workplace. But, she added, that doesn't necessarily equate to discrimination under the law.
"In a company like Bloomberg, which explicitly makes all-out dedication its expectation, making a decision that preferences family over work comes with consequences," the judge said. "But those consequences occur for anyone who takes significant time away from Bloomberg, not just for pregnant women and mothers."
The judge didn't rule on individual claims of discrimination and asked the parties to inform her how they plan to proceed with those claims.
Six women are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit and the EEOC has identified 78 women in total who have claims of discrimination.
"We look forward to pursuing the individual allegations and will assess our options," said Raechel L. Adams, an EEOC lawyer.
There were 603 Bloomberg employees who were pregnant or took maternity leave during the proposed class period of February 2002 to March 2009.
"The US District Court's ruling today confirms what we have known all along: that the evidence is squarely on our side and that this case is without merit," said a Bloomberg LP spokesman.