Patt Morrison for August 30, 2011

“Law does not mandate work-life balance” to mothers claiming discrimination after maternity leave from Bloomberg L.P.

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Working mother with her child.

“There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.”

This statement, made by Jack Welch, former chief executive of General Electric, was what Judge Loretta A. Preska of United States District Court in Manhattan quoted in her recent ruling. Judge Preska dismissed the class-action lawsuit by new mothers who claimed that Bloomberg L.P. discriminated against them when they returned to work from maternity leave by reducing their pay, demoting them, or excluding them from meetings. She wrote about federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (E.E.O.C)’s case that “isolated remarks from a few individuals over the course of a nearly six-year period in a company of over 10,000, with over 600 women who took maternity leave” does not show a pattern of discrimination. Furthermore, “a female is free to choose to dedicate herself to the company at any cost, and… she will rise in this organization accordingly. The law does not require companies to ignore or stop valuing ultimate dedication, however unhealthy that may be for family life.”

Bloomberg L.P. is the financial and media services company founded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been accused in the past of making inappropriate comments about women’s sex appeal and who the women of the suit claim is responsible for creating a workplace culture of discrimination. Is this an isolated Bloomberg issue, or is discrimination of mothers before, during, and after pregnancy a common workplace occurrence? Does it make a difference that many of these women are top Wall Street executives—at that point, are they choosing career over family? Has feminism created a Generation Y that expects to have it all—family and career—without sacrifice? Is that what men have? Should American companies do more for their working mothers like the government does and European countries do or will that sacrifice competitiveness?

Guests:

Sonia Ossorio, executive director, New York City National Organization for Women (N.O.W.)

Christina Hoff Sommers, resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research


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