The three women involved in a federal suit against Bloomberg LP that charges gender discrimination are now saying Mayor Bloomberg and other top managers at the company created a culture hostile to pregnant women and new mothers.
The women filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Manhattan yesterday to add to the lawsuit filed last week by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the financial news information company.
The new 66-page complaint — which seeks nearly $482 million in cumulative compensatory and punitive damages — offers more specifics than the EEOC suit, and targets the mayor and the top lieutenants who took over for him when he left to go to City Hall for creating an environment conducive to discrimination.
"Upon information and belief, Michael Bloomberg is responsible for the creation of the systemic, top-down culture of discrimination which exists within Bloomberg," the complaint says.
It says the highest levels of management "fostered, condoned and perpetuated" such an atmosphere. In addition to the mayor, the document names CEO Alexius "Lex" Fenwick; the chairman of the board, Peter Grauer, and one of the company's co-founders, Thomas Secunda, by name.
The new motion is not only a blow to a company that has been surging on the business side, but could also be a major political setback for the mayor if he decides to run for president as a third party candidate.
Even before yesterday's complaint was filed, political observers said the latest allegations against the company — which cover a period after Mr. Bloomberg stepped down as chief executive — could be fodder for future political opponents. They said the new allegations only compounded past accusations that have been filed against the mayor himself.
Last week, when asked about the EEOC lawsuit, Mr. Bloomberg, who insists he has no plans to run for president, said he has not worked at the company in "an awful long time."
A spokeswoman for Bloomberg L.P., Judith Czelusniak, defended the company yesterday, saying the "additional filing by the same people named in the EEOC suit isn't about justice and isn't about fairness."
"It's a publicity stunt," she said via e-mail. "It seems to be an effort to damage other people and stir up publicity to exert pressure on the Company for financial gain. This Company is proud of our track record in treating our people well and in offering the best benefit programs around for families and women."
The complaint says that while Mr. Bloomberg, who founded the company in 1981, claims he has cut himself off from the daily operations, he is actually still involved. It cites a New York Post story published last year, which said that Mr. Bloomberg instructed Bloomberg Radio to stop running advertisements by law firms that prosecute employment discrimination cases. At the time, the company denied that Mr. Bloomberg did so.
In 1997, Mr. Bloomberg was personally accused of discrimination in a separate suit, which alleged that he told a pregnant woman to "kill it." He settled that suit out of court for an undisclosed amount and admitted no wrongdoing.
This latest complaint does not cite any other specific examples of comments made by the mayor, but rather focuses on the culture he allegedly created. It does, however, accuse several other top managers of making crude remarks. It alleges that Mr. Fenwick said: "I'm not having any pregnant b— working for me," after learning that two employees were pregnant.
The complaint, filed by Jill Patricot, Tanys Lancaster, and Janet Loures, offers the first detailed timeline of the demotions, pay cuts, and responsibility scalebacks they are alleging.
Ms. Patricot, for example, alleges that her direct supervisor, Beth Mazzeo, informed her in December 2005 that her career had been "paused" because she had a child.
A political science professor at the University of Virginia, Larry Sabato, said it's not enough to "just cast general dispersions." He noted that bringing Mr. Bloomberg into the fray could simply be a strategy to get more attention and a larger settlement.
"Twenty years ago this might have proved very damaging to a candidate, but look what we've been through. The Clinton stuff and a 100 other things have really raised the bar for what can affect a candidate," he said.
The women, two of whom still work for the company, claim that their complaints were dismissed by Bloomberg L.P.'s Human Resources Department. The EEOC, which prosecutes only a fraction of the cases it receives, is accusing the company of a pattern of "unlawful" employment practices.
The mayor stepped down as CEO in 2001, but he still owns 68% of the company, which is the primary source of his vast wealth. Earlier this week he said he was "very proud" of Bloomberg L.P.
"It's a very family-friendly company," he said. "I haven't had anything to do with running it or any discussions about any of their employment policies for a long time."