Friday, September 28, 2007

Harassment and Discrimination

Many in the mainstream media have fallen all over themselves to praise the possibility of an independent run for the White House by Mayor Moneybags.

David Broder, the "dean" of Washington journalism and a man who is considered the weather vane of conventional political wisdom, has been pushing a Bloomberg candidacy for quite a while now.

The conventional wisdom is that Moneybags, seen as "Mr. Competent" and "Mr Apolitical," would be a candidate who could appeal to people who cannot stomach the more polarizing figure of St. Rudy of 9/11 or want to forget the sex scandals of the Clinton years by NOT voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Behind the conventional wisdom lies the presumption that Bloomberg is relatively sane, highly competent, has little political or personal baggage and more money than God to spend on campaigning.

But between the news of the sexual harassment suits filed against him personally in the past and yesterday's news that his company is being sued for gender discrimination, the conventional wisdom about Moneybags having little personal or political baggage just might be wrong.

First let's take a look at what the NY Sun has to say about the gender discrimination suit filed against his company yesterday:

New allegations of gender-based discrimination against Mayor Bloomberg's financial news company, Bloomberg L.P., could be a political liability for the mayor if he opts to run for president.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the company yesterday on behalf of three women who say they were discriminated against either during pregnancy or upon their return from maternity leave.

The EEOC, which acts on only a fraction of the discrimination complaints it receives, claims that the company engaged in "unlawful employment practices" between February 2002 and the present. That is after Mr. Bloomberg stepped down and removed himself from the company's daily operations. The mayor has been at the center of a gender discrimination lawsuit in the past, but he adamantly denied the charges.

A professor of public affairs at Baruch College, Douglas Muzzio, said that though yesterday's suit covers a period after Mr. Bloomberg exited, it could hurt politically if he decides to run for president as a third party candidate.

"It could be argued that he did it before, there was a culture, he was a man at the top," Mr. Muzzio said. "If he decides to run it could be very bad because then it dredges up all the old stuff."

That's an interesting point about Bloomberg creating a culture where women were discriminated against and/or treated as "less-than," because back in 2001 the Village Voice reported that Bloomberg seemed to be pretty indifferent to sexual harassment charges and the seriousness of rape when he was running the Bloomberg L.P. too:

In a 1998, 272-page deposition never before made public, Michael Bloomberg said he would believe a rape charge only if it was supported by "an unimpeachable third-party" witness, and accused an ex-employee who said she'd been raped by a Bloomberg executive of "extortion." Asked if he believed "false claims of rape are common," the GOP mayoral contender and CEO of a vast financial-information empire replied: "I don't have an opinion." [Read excerpts.]

Bloomberg's comments are drawn from one of three sexual harassment lawsuits that have dogged him since 1996, all of which contended that "a hostile environment of persistent sexual harassment and the general degradation of women" existed at the 8000-employee company of the same name that Bloomberg founded and ran. In addition to his uninformed testimony about rape, Bloomberg also displayed a chilly indifference to sexual harassment laws and guidelines during the deposition. Bloomberg declined to discuss these issues with the Voice, though a company spokeswoman insisted it has "zero tolerance" for harassment or rape. While the rape case of sales representative Mary Ann Olszewski has been mentioned in occasional news accounts, it has not attracted as much attention as a companion case filed by Sekiko Garrison, another member of the predominantly female, and usually young, attractive, and short-skirted sales force.

The Garrison case focused on a claimed pattern of gender discrimination, with several women quoted in court documents as saying that they'd "lost lucrative portions of their sales territory, were denied business opportunities and received inferior bonuses" once they got married or had children. Garrison alleged that Bloomberg told her twice to "kill it" when she informed him she was pregnant, adding "Great! Number 16," a reference to the number of women then on maternity leave.

Now I'm not the most astute political observer and I'm certainly no David Broder, but how is it that a man who went on record saying rape charges made by women against their bosses are often "extortion" opportunities, told a woman employee who informed him she was pregnant that she should "kill" the child, and created a "good ole boy" atmosphere in his company where women were systematically discriminated against and/or harassed manages to have the reputation for being a straight shooting political guy with little political or personal baggage?

It seems to me that if somebody in the press actually looked into the numerous sexual harassment and gender discrimination charges made against Moneybags in just the past decade alone, they would find a treasure trove of dirty laundry that would permanently end his White House dreams.

You can be sure that if these stories were swirling around Bill Clinton, the press would be following up on them.

How is it that Moneybags gets a free pass?

I have this theory that's it's because he runs a media company and that journalists in general are loathe to anger potential future employers by writing negative stories about them.

I dunno if that's the case, but it sure is disturbing that Mayor Michael Bloomberg manages to avoid scrutiny for these very serious harassment and discrimination charges made against him and his company.
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