NEW YORK (Reuters) - Financial news and data firm Bloomberg LP, founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is facing a lawsuit involving 58 women who say they had their pay cut, were demoted or denied opportunities because they had become pregnant.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed the lawsuit, said on Thursday the number of claimants had risen from three since September and could rise further.
EEOC attorney Raechel Adams told a pre-trial hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that her agency had sent questionnaires to 478 women who were at Bloomberg LP and had taken maternity leave since 2002.
Michael Bloomberg, who became mayor in January 2002, retains a majority stake in the company but has said he has given up day-to-day control.
The cases go back to February 2002.
Adams said the EEOC was still conducting follow up interviews with the women, not all of whom are in the United States. “It is a global action,” Adams told Reuters.
The lawsuit also claims the women were paid less when they returned from maternity leave and were demoted and replaced by “junior” male employees.
The EEOC took action after Jill Patricot, Tanys Lancaster and Janet Loures filed charges with the government agency.
Both Patricot and Loures remain employed by Bloomberg LP. Lancaster is an executive at Thomson Reuters.
Bloomberg LP is a competitor of Thomson Reuters.
The EEOC is asking the court to award back pay and provide compensation for both past and future monetary losses.
A trial is expected in the fall.
Bloomberg LP’s lawyer, Anna Aquilar, told U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska that her client had given the EEOC more than one million pages of data related to employees over the last 10 years.
The company will also hand over e-mails, she said.
Bloomberg LP spokeswoman Judith Czelusniak said in an e-mailed statement that the company had more than 10,000 employees worldwide and that fewer than two dozen employment lawsuits had been filed against it in the United States.
“Last month, the U.S. District Court in New Jersey dismissed an employment discrimination suit by four current and former employees, finding that the plaintiffs’ allegations were baseless,” she said, without providing additional details.
According to court documents, the plaintiffs in that lawsuit accused the company of age and disability discrimination, retaliation and sexual harassment.
Czelusniak said that in dismissing the New Jersey lawsuit, “the court said that ‘as with many of the assertions plaintiffs make, the facts’ seem to be more conjectural - or even wishful thinking - than factual.’
“We believe that the court will render a similar judgment in the case brought by the EEOC,” Czelusniak said.
Stanford Law School Professor Deborah Rhode said, “It’s not uncommon to find employers responding in this way to employees who become pregnant.”
Asked how hard it would be to prove discrimination, she replied: “It’s not rocket science ... There’s usually documentary evidence that shows what was their job before and what was their job when they came back. And is there any other plausible explanation other than discrimination.”
Many Wall Street banks and brokerages have faced and settled sex discrimination lawsuits over the years.
A federal judge in San Francisco approved a settlement on Wednesday under which Citigroup Inc agreed to pay $33 million to about 2,500 current and former female brokers at its Smith Barney unit to resolve a gender discrimination lawsuit.
As part of the settlement, Citigroup had agreed to change some business practices. The bank has denied wrongdoing.
Morgan Stanley paid out $54 million in 2004 to settle sex discrimination charges. It settled a similar lawsuit for $46 million in 2007.
Editing by Toni Reinhold