Federal Judge Dismisses Class Action Claims of Discrimination Against Pregnant Women

Judge Rules for Bloomberg L.P. in Class-Action Bias Lawsuit

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In a major victory for Bloomberg L.P., the financial and media services giant founded by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a federal judge has dismissed claims that the company engaged in a pattern of discrimination against pregnant women who took maternity leaves.

Judge Loretta A. Preska of United States District Court in Manhattan ruled Wednesday that the plaintiffs had failed to present sufficient evidence that discrimination was Bloomberg L.P.’s “standard operating procedure, even if there were several isolated instances of individual discrimination.”

“ ‘J’accuse!’ is not enough in court,” she wrote. “Evidence is required.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a class-action lawsuit in September 2007 on behalf of more than 80 employees of Bloomberg L.P., asserting that the company systematically reduced the pay, demoted or excluded from meetings mothers and pregnant women.

Mr. Bloomberg, the majority shareholder of the company, was not a defendant, and the alleged discrimination was said to have taken place after Mr. Bloomberg departed to make a successful mayoral bid in 2001. But the suit was a political albatross for the mayor, since the plaintiffs asserted that “Michael Bloomberg is responsible for the creation of the systemic, top-down culture of discrimination.”

Mr. Bloomberg was also compelled to testify, for eight hours over two days, in a deposition in which he was testy and sarcastic but also confident that the company would be found to have acted appropriately.

The judge’s ruling still allows the individual plaintiffs to proceed with their claims, on their own, but legal experts said that such cases were generally much harder to win.

A spokeswoman for the E.E.O.C., Christine Saah Nazer, said, “We regret today’s decision, and look forward to proceeding with the individual claims and will assess our options.”

Stu Loeser, the mayor’s press secretary, referred inquiries about the ruling to the company. And in a statement, Bloomberg L.P. said, “The U.S. 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.”

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