Taking Maternity Leave Viewed As A Lack Of Employee Dedication By Bloomberg

Maternity LeaveA federal judge has dismissed a workplace discrimination lawsuit filed against Bloomberg LP, citing lack of evidence in the case brought by the federal government on behalf of pregnant employees and women returning from maternity leave.

"'J'accuse!' is not enough in court," U.S. District Court Loretta A. Preska wrote in her ruling Wednesday. Evidence presented by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was "insufficient to demonstrate that discrimination was Bloomberg's standard operating procedure, even if there were several isolated instances of individual discrimination."

In her widely reported ruling, Preska said, "Bloomberg increased compensation for women returning from maternity leave more than for those who took similarly lengthy leaves and did not reduce the responsibilities of women returning from maternity leave any more than of those who took similarly lengthy leaves."

The federal agency brought the class-action lawsuit against the Manhattan-based company in 2007, accusing it of systematically discriminating against mothers and pregnant women by reducing their pay, demoting them or excluding them from important meetings during a seven-year period beginning in 2002, The New York Times reported.

The strongly worded opinion in favor of the news organization founded by three-term New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also criticized the EEOC for the type of evidence it presented to the court.

"[T]he quality of EEOC's assemblage of evidence is not the sort courts have found to be sufficient evidence of a pattern of discrimination," Preska wrote.

Given Bloomberg's known culture of all-out dedication to the company, the judge wrote, decisions that value family above work come with consequences. But those consequences affect anyone who takes significant time away from the workplace.

"A female employee is free to choose to dedicate herself to the company at any cost, and, so far as this record suggests, she will rise in this organization accordingly," Preska wrote, according to the Times. "The law does not require companies to ignore or stop valuing ultimate dedication, however unhealthy that may be for family life."

That's a harsh message to any employee who values their time away from work as much as they enjoy the kind of work they do.

In this modern era when many employers acknowledge workers' need for balance between the competing demands of work and home life, Preska's ruling makes it clear that there are some companies that remain stern exceptions to the rule.

Work-life balance expert Wendy Kaufman calls the ruling unfair in part because it lumps pregnancy leave with other types of extended time off from work.

"Women brought this claim because the needs of working moms are different than those of employees who may take personal sick leave or a sabbatical," says Kaufman, founder and CEO of Balancing Life's Issues, a provider of corporate trainings.

"This is not just an issue of compensating women more," she tells AOL Jobs. "Paying women the same or more to choose work over family is not the solution."

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