Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D) once told a pregnant employee to “kill it,” a resurfaced 1990s lawsuit alleges.
While Bloomberg has faced allegations of making sexist remarks and fostering an unhealthy work environment in the past, the lawsuits are coming back into the limelight weeks after the launch of his last-minute presidential bid.
One employee alleged that Bloomberg told her to “kill it” after announcing her pregnancy. The claim surfaced as part of a “discrimination lawsuit that was settled out of court” in the 1990s, according to ABC News.
“He told me to ‘kill it’ in a serious monotone voice,” Sekiko Sakai, a sales manager who filed the lawsuit in 1997, alleged. “I asked ‘What? What did you just say?’ He looked at me and repeated in a deliberate manner ‘kill it.’”
“Great, No. 16′,” Bloomberg allegedly added as “an apparent unhappy reference, her complaint said, to a total of 16 pregnant women in his company,” according to the New York Times.
“[Sakai] thought [Bloomberg] would be pleased that she was pregnant,” Bonnie Josephs, a New York attorney who represented Sakai, said, according to ABC News.
Josephs recalled that Sakai “said she felt very distressed” by Bloomberg’s reaction and it “really upset her emotionally.” Bloomberg’s alleged remark, Josephs said, reflected a “locker room atmosphere that was a sexually harassing atmosphere.”
Bloomberg LP settled Sakai’s case on undisclosed terms, and she is now bound by a confidentiality agreement.
While Bloomberg has denied that specific allegation — even citing the results of his polygraph test — Josephs says the pattern indicates that there is truth to the women’s allegations.
“I believe these women,” Josephs said. “If [Bloomberg] denies it, I don’t believe that. I believe that denial to be incorrect.”
Years later, in 2007, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “brought a sweeping case alleging discrimination against pregnant woman and new mothers who worked at the firm.”
Per ABC News:
The lawsuit alleged that the company engaged in a pattern of discrimination against women after they became pregnant and after they took maternity leave. Sixty-seven women were prepared to join the case. The time period of the misconduct alleged in the lawsuit was between 2002 and 2007 while Bloomberg was mayor of New York City and not involved in the day-to-day operations of the company, although he remained the majority owner of it. A court dismissed the case in 2011.
However, critics say Bloomberg remained directly responsible for the culture cultivated at the company.
“It’s his company, it’s his business. He frames the atmosphere. He has to be responsible for it,” Josephs said.
The allegation is just one of many against Bloomberg, who has been accused of making derogatory and sexist remarks toward women, many of which were highlighted in a decades-old book compiled by his friends, featuring alleged quotes from the billionaire.
Bloomberg’s campaign has acknowledged the candidate’s controversial past but still maintains that he has “supported and empowered women throughout his career.”
Bloomberg campaign spokesperson Julie Wood told ABC News:
Mike Bloomberg has supported and empowered women throughout his career — from appointing women to the very top positions in his mayoral administration to supporting women candidates for higher office to an industry-leading 26-weeks of paid family leave at his company.
At the same time, Mike 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.
Bloomberg, who recently jumped in the crowded Democrat presidential field, is aiming to score the nomination by focusing primarily on Super Tuesday states. Despite spending millions on advertising, the latest CBS News Battleground Tracker shows the presidential hopeful struggling to break into the top tier in Super Tuesday states, coming in fifth place with four percent support.