The Washington Post

Bloomberg discrimination decision loaded against work-life balance

A federal judge dropped an anvil this week on the work-life balance scale.

In her opinion siding with the Bloomberg media company (PDF), Chief U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska did more than rule against the dozens of women who had joined the class-action lawsuit alleging systematic discrimination. She also smacked down any notion that workers might expect their employers to honor their family-life decisions.

The women had alleged that they had lost compensation and opportunity after it was learned they were pregnant or took maternity leave. Preska said the evidence of systematic discrimination as merely anecdotal and pointed out that other employees who took leave for different reasons had, in some cases, lost more compensation.

Besides deciding that the plaintiffs did not show evidence of systematic discrimination, she took her opinion a step further by pointing out: “The law does not require companies to ignore or stop valuing ultimate dedication, however unhealthy that may be for family life.”

Moreover, she went on, companies are not legally mandated to “ignore employees’ work-family trade-offs — and they are trade-offs — when deciding about employee pay and promotions.”

She even dredged up a quote from former General Electric chief executive Jack Welch, “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” Then proceeded to second it.

Her decision notwithstanding, what strikes me is that the judge seemed to relish the opportunity to scold our culture’s desire to have both a fruitful career and engaged family life.

What do you think? Was Preska’s “discussion” of work-life gratuitous? Was it necessary for her to take the opportunity to spell out the boundaries of legally mandated corporate policies in such stark terms?


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