Bloomberg LP thinks people should know the name of the person who is accusing it of fostering a “toxic” workplace for women along with instances of harassment.
The media and finance terminal company demanded in New York court last week that the woman who sued it in early June — a former saleswoman who alleges during her 18 months with Bloomberg she experienced a “gender-biased” culture that is demeaning and prohibitive to women, was urged to “dress provocatively” and that female coworkers were ranked by “hotness,” among other things — reveal her full identity in order for the case to go forward.
“Plaintiff’s claims of employment discrimination, retaliation and sexual harassment — the latter of which is premised on one alleged comment about plaintiff that was reportedly relayed to her secondhand — do not constitute the type of highly personal and intimate matters that courts have found to be worthy of protection in other cases, nor has plaintiff established any risk of harm if she were to proceed using her true name,” Bloomberg lawyers wrote in a court motion.
Bloomberg is arguing effectively for a public revelation of the woman, as it said in its motion that it is “already aware of plaintiff’s identity.” The company said this in arguing against the woman’s contention that revealing her name would put her at “risk of retaliatory or physical harm.” From Bloomberg’s point of view, “no such ‘risk’ of retaliation exists given that plaintiff no longer works at BLP.”
“Since there is no risk of retaliation if plaintiff were compelled to proceed with her true name, the presumption of open judicial proceedings outweighs plaintiff’s interest in proceeding anonymously,” company lawyers wrote.
Bloomberg did not address the possibility of other sources of retaliation or harm. But it went on to argue that the woman, who is seeking at least $5 million in damages and filed under the name Joan Doe, but divulged her age, gender and role at the company, is improperly using her anonymity “as both a sword and a shield.”
Lawyers tried to position her naming of her former manager, Lloyd Preece, as an individual defendant in the case as evidence of this. The woman accused Preece, then a sales manager of Bloomberg’s lucrative terminal business, of trying to see up her skirt by sitting under a clear staircase in the company’s New York office. On another occasion, she claims that Preece told colleagues it was “red day,” a reference to her wearing red underwear. Both of these instances the woman learned of after colleagues informed her.
Although the woman claims she complained to human resources, she said no action was taken. And she claims to have been retaliated against afterward, as once positive performance reviews turned negative and she was denied opportunities to advance, according to the complaint.
In Bloomberg’s push for her to reveal her identity, the company contends the woman was fired “for recurring performance and conduct deficiencies,” and that all of her claims are based on secondhand sources.
“Plaintiff does not allege that Mr. Preece made this statement to her, or that she personally heard him make this statement,” Bloomberg lawyers said, referring to the underwear claim. “She also does not allege any physical touching or assault. Plaintiff’s other allegations about a purported sexist ‘culture’ at BLP rely upon second- and third-hand reports and recycled allegations made in lawsuits filed by her attorney on behalf of other clients (lawsuits that themselves rely mostly on hearsay), rather than plaintiff’s personal knowledge or her own alleged experience at BLP.”
The woman’s attorney is Donna Clancy, who has represented women in actions against Bloomberg on at least two past occasions. She could not be reached for comment. But as was reported during billionaire founder Michael Bloomberg’s recent and brief run for president, the company has faced dozens of complaints alleging harassment and creating a toxic culture for women since it was founded in 1981.
The media and finance terminal company contends the woman also has to reveal her name on a technicality, claiming she did not go through the proper verification process for filing an anonymous complaint.
But more than anything, Bloomberg argued the perceived hypocrisy of the woman remaining anonymous to the public while she uses the names of Preece and some other Bloomberg employees in her lawsuit in describing the alleged “toxic, misogynistic and hyper-masculine workplace culture” she faced at the company.
“It is fundamentally unfair to allow plaintiff to proceed behind a cloak of anonymity when she appears to have notified the media about her complaint to garner publicity for her unproven allegations against BLP and Mr. Preece,” Bloomberg lawyers write. “She should be required to publicly stand behind the serious charges she alleges in the complaint.”
The company argued that the first reporter to contact its press officer about the lawsuit for a story in Business Insider did so 11 minutes after the complaint was filed in the online court system, a time frame it characterized as “near instantaneous” and proof that the reporter was given the papers in advance. Business Insider wrote a lengthy story in March on Bloomberg’s negative workplace culture based on dozens of current and former employees.