Flashback: What Were the Discrimination Charges Against Bloomberg LP?

By August 19, 2011

From yesterday’s Portfolio.com. The full article may be found here.
In what is seen as a major victory for Bloomberg LP, a federal judge Wednesday dismissed a class-action lawsuit against the financial media powerhouse that alleged pregnant women and new mothers were routinely discriminated against. But Judge Loretta Preska of the United States District Court in Manhattan did determine that individual discrimination cases could go forward.
Preska noted in her ruling that the case was built on anecdotes and not on statistics or proven facts. “‘J’accuse!’ is not enough in court,” the judge wrote. “Evidence is required.”
Those anecdotes, however, were certainly attention-grabbing. In a lengthy profile in Condé Nast Portfolio magazine in November 2008, Sheelah Kolhatkar details the complaints that had been made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as she probes into what is described as the “Bloomberg culture.” The media company owes much of its look and feel to its founder, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg as mayor, Kolhatkar writes, has built a solid record in supporting women’s rights and in elevating women into power positions. “The question, then, is what to make of that Michael Bloomberg in light of the statements of dozens of women who say they’ve been mistreated at his company—the other Bloomberg administration, as it were,” Kolhatkar writes.
Especially interesting is how Kolhatkar describes the early days at Bloomberg LP, a company he created after being squeezed out of Solomon Brothers in 1981.
Michael Bloomberg’s famous bluntness and salty—sometimes downright crude—sense of humor typified the firm, especially in its early days. “He was always talking about my ass or my chest: ‘Oh, are they real?’” says a woman who worked for the company for 11 years. (She declined to be identified for this article.) “He was a goofy guy, always joking.”
Off-color banter was so much a part of his persona that one former company executive, Elisabeth DeMarse, put together a 32-page booklet of Mike witticisms as a gag gift for his birthday, according to New York magazine. The first quote read, “Make the customer think he’s getting laid when he’s getting f—-d.”
“This is Bloomberg culture,” DeMarse had said weeks before the 2001 mayoral election. “You have to understand, Mike is very uncensored. When Mike says outrageous things, it’s sort of a test. It’s a loyalty test. It’s a bonding thing when everyone laughs. You stop thinking that it might be inappropriate.”
To read more about the discrimination allegations, click here for Sheelah Kolhatkar’s full article. And to read the judge’s ruling dismissing the class-action case, click here.