Nanette Fondas

    Work-Life Balance? Forget It, Says Bloomberg Case Judge

    Posted August 25th, 2011 by

    At a time when work, workers and the workplace are “job one” for the struggling U.S. economy, it’s discouraging to find out that the nation just can’t get serious about taking half of its workforce seriously. The female half.

    I’m referring to Wednesday’s court decision in which  U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska dismissed a class-action discrimination suit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against financial services corporation Bloomberg L.P. Preska ruled that there was not sufficient statistical evidence that Bloomberg women employees who became pregnant between 2002 and 2009 were later demoted or paid less than workers who took other types of leaves.

    Working moms just can’t get a break. First the Supreme Court ruled in the Wal-Mart class-action suit that the number of women alleging discrimination was too big. Now a U.S. District Court in Manhattan rules that the group of Bloomberg claimants was too small to prove that pregnancy discrimination was “standard operating procedure.”

    On dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Preska waded into the work-life debate when she quoted Jack Welch (former chief executive of G.E.) saying, “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” In other words, people who decide to spend time giving birth, recovering and breastfeeding might not advance as quickly as the guy who doesn’t stop to breathe.

    Did she say “Jack Welch”? Yes, he was a business icon at one time. His leadership was heralded at Harvard Business School in the early ’80s. But his rein in the world of influential ideas was then and this is now. Right now the U.S. faces global competition in the supply of manufacturing and service products on a scale and scope we’ve not seen before. We can no longer afford to dismiss half of our human resource capital because it happens to be female and sometimes bear children. G.E., Bloomberg, Wal-Mart and other giants need involved and committed women employees (even after they become mothers, no less), to remain competitive. This is not a new idea, but the Bloomberg case’s reasoning and citing of a business dinosaur reminds us that business culture still has far to develop.

    As a society, we don’t want organizations filled with only guys (and gals) who don’t stop to breathe. Judge Preska said, “The law does not require companies to ignore or stop valuing ultimate dedication, however unhealthy that may be for family life.”  The “law” does not require this of companies, but we as workers, consumers and citizens need to require it. If this is all to be left to the free market, as the ruling promotes, then let’s not shop and work at places that are hostile to working women, babies and families. For now, this may be the way to nudge business toward more social responsibility, particularly making  workplaces more family friendly. Business firms, too, have to see that work-life choices have consequences.

    Photo of Bloomberg Tower in New York City from Wikimedia Commons

    Originally posted on Ms. Magazine

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    11 Comments

    October 29, 2011 at 12:34 pm by Pharmd244

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    August 26, 2011 at 9:10 pm by Angela

    WalMart meets my family’s needs in quality products at competitive prices. I will shop them rather than boycott them like others in this post and risk the careers of every female WalMart employee in the company. Wake up silly girls!

    [Reply]

    August 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm by Lesli Doares

    WalMart’s employee policies are why I will not set foot in their stores. Unfortunately, the “low” prices are too good for most to give up. Slavery was the ultimate capitalist, free market system.

    [Reply]

    August 26, 2011 at 12:59 pm by Chris

    Whether you like Jack Welch or not, his leaderhip led GE to become a US company that rose as a world leader in creating huge numbers of jobs and wealth for American citizens. Anyone who worked for GE in those days were paid fairly among the entry levels. What Jack wanted were leaders that could continue the success of GE beyond his tenure. There is too much at stake in the lives of those employed to not expect this kind of excellence and dedication from the company’s leadership. Tens of thousands of families benefitted from Jack Welch’s leadership style compared to how it is being run today. In case you haven’t been reading the papers, today’s leaders at GE are closing plants in Wisconsin and places throughout the country and shipping them to China, while the CEO of GE, Jeff Immelt, is President Obama’s Job Czar. Seriously? Our families deserve an administration that encourages job creation in our own country.

    [Reply]

    August 26, 2011 at 9:03 am by Kathy Morelli

    Well, all I can say is that the judge is not to blame for enforcing the work laws of the US, where workers have no protection. In the European Union, workers actually have legal rights that are protected under the law. And that is why there are longer, more humanely healthy vacations, and longer maternity/paternity leave. I mean, give me a break…I am old enuf to remember when there was NO family leave in the US, and companies were allowed to decide voluntarily how to treat their employees when there was a family emergency or childcare situation, Until we the people elect civil servants who will truly hold big biz accountable by creating laws protecting workers, and thus create a family-friendly society, our economy and way of life we are held hostage by creators of company & social milieu like Jack Welch. Just look at what happened with deregulation, beginning with Reagan, enhanced by Bush….and somehow, someway, there is a large portion of the population that cant logically connect the fall of the economy with the deregulation & greed. Please, learn to read. Oh, yeah, public schools is under attack now too.

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    Anon Reply:

    @Kathy Morelli, That would be civilized! Great ideas.

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    August 26, 2011 at 6:38 am by Holly Blades

    Where can we go to find out which are good and which are bad in this regard? Are companies rated on this score by anybody? We know the ones mentioned here are bad. I can say I have good feelings towards Ikea, which in Portugal (where I live) made the cover of a prominent news magazine for its family friendly policies. But how to find out more?

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    August 26, 2011 at 12:46 am by Sandra H. Jolly

    Maybe we should go back to letting the MEN who create the babies actually SUPPORT them (and the women who bear them). Every child should be tested to determine paternity and that man will then be held responsible for supporting that child from birth through age 18, and for providing a home and food for the woman until the child is of school age. MAYBE THEY WILL BE MORE CAREFUL HOW MANY VIAGRA PILLS THEY TAKE IF THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES!

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    August 25, 2011 at 6:43 pm by Anon

    In a country where date rape is essentially legal, and abortion is approaching illegal (or certainly inaccessible), then there really are no “work-life” choices either. There’s women as slaves. Thanks Tea Party and GOP! You rock.

    [Reply]

    Anonymous Reply:

    @Anon, NOT! It would serve them right if we all decided to become Amazons, and I don’t mean the non-brick and mortar entity.

    [Reply]

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