Friday, August 19, 2011
Judge Preska in the Southern District of New York granted Bloomberg, LP summary judgment in EEOC v. Bloomberg, a pattern and practice sex/pregnancy discrimination case earlier this week. The EEOC had alleged that Bloomberg had a practice of discriminating against employees who took maternity leave by reducing their responsibilities and compensation, and by engaging in other actions that ostracized them or made it harder for them to succeed. Essentially, the court found that the EEOC had not presented enough evidence that discrimination against employees who went on maternity leave were systematically discriminated against.
The key to the district court's decision was the fact that the EEOC presented no statistical evidence. Instead, it relied on the "anecdotal" evidence of of disparate treatment for seventy-seven women. There were 603 women who took maternity leave during the six-year time period at issue in the action. There were other problems as well. Some of the deposition evidence from the women claimants suggested that their own choices may have factored into some of their treatment. Relatedly, some of the negative treatment came as a result of accommodating women who were pregnant, on maternity leave, or had recently returned from maternity leave--although it isn't totally clear that the women always requested those accommodations. Finally, this case suffered from the same problem that was decisive in Wal-Mart v. Dukes--the discrimination was carried out through a policy of allowing managers discretion to make decisions. The court noted that it would be hard to ever show a practice with so much individual decisionmaking.
It's another blow to the pattern and practice cause of action.