New Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg may run into criticism from his opponents not only about his status as a billionaire but over a number of lawsuits claiming harassment and discrimination at the media conglomerate he founded.
The work environment at Bloomberg LP has been the subject of multiple complaints since the firm's inception in 1981, according to legal filings. The suits were also reported in depth by Business Insider.
The complaints named both the former New York City mayor and his company, potentially providing fodder to opponents such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have accused the 77-year-old -- with a fortune of $54 billion, per Forbes -- of trying to buy the 2020 presidential election.
Anticipating scrutiny of his past, the billionaire apologized again Tuesday for a controversial “stop and frisk” policy, intended to curb violent crime, while he was the mayor of New York City. Critics blasted the practice as discriminatory, complaining that officers targeted black and Latino men in lower-income communities and searched them for illegal weapons.
Here’s a look at some of the cases connected to his corporate empire.
Discrimination against pregnant women
The U.S. District Court of Manhattan dismissed claims from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of more than 70 women who qualified as claimants in a class-action lawsuit against Bloomberg LP in 2007, claiming the company discriminated against mothers and pregnant women. The lawsuit said the women were demoted, had their pay reduced and were excluded from management meetings. Bloomberg had left his role at the company and was serving as mayor of New York City during the time period covered in the lawsuit. The suit was dismissed because there was insufficient statistical evidence.
Alleged harassment, rape
A lawsuit filed in 2016 by a woman known as “Margaret Doe” alleges that she was harassed by former executive Nicholas Ferris soon after she started in 2012 but didn't report it because she feared retaliation.
The plaintiff claims she was raped by Ferris on two occasions in 2013 while she was intoxicated and that she became dependent on drugs that he hid for her around the office. Ferris was terminated in 2015.
Bloomberg, accused in the lawsuit of breeding “a hostile work environment” that led to discrimination, won an appeal in September to have his name removed from the multimillion-dollar case. The claims against the company and Ferris remained intact.
Nicholas Ferris did not respond to outreach from FOX Business.
Former executive Johnna Ayres sued Bloomberg and Bloomberg LP in 2018 over sex and age discrimination, a hostile work environment and retaliation.
Ayres resigned from Bloomberg “after being targeted for termination because she complained about illegal financial, discriminatory and other employment practices by her male predecessor” Ferris, the suit reads. Ayres alleged she was targeted because she had information about Ferris’ ongoing sexual harassment of a young female employee.
The lawsuit also says that the firm’s “proclivity to hire males, specifically males under the age of 40, resulted in a fraternity-fashioned corporate culture.”
“Following the example and leadership of Mr. Bloomberg, Bloomberg's dominant male culture allows sex to permeate the company’s work environment on a daily basis,” Ayres’ lawsuit says.
A Bloomberg LP spokesperson, in a statement to FOX Business, said:
"Bloomberg strongly supports a culture that treats all employees with dignity and respect, and enforces that culture through clear policies and practices. Sexual harassment is prohibited and offenders face termination. Our diversity and inclusion efforts --including training on preventing harassment and gender bias-- are designed to foster a culture where thousands of people are proud to work every day."
Bloomberg's campaign referred FOX Business back to the company.
Several suits are ongoing, as noted by Business Insider, including one filed in October from an employee who claims to have been fired while undergoing cancer treatment.
In a recent statement to The New York Times regarding Bloomberg’s alleged history of crude remarks toward women, Bloomberg’s team said the businessman has come to see that “some of what he has said is disrespectful and wrong.”
“He believes his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life,” spokesman Stu Loeser told the Times earlier this month.
Bloomberg announced his candidacy over the weekend, stating his goal was to defeat President Trump, whom he said “represents an existential threat to our country and our values.”
Voting in the Democratic Primary will begin in about 10 weeks.