Michael Bloomberg’s company is facing a lawsuit from a woman claiming she was subjected to a hostile and discriminatory work environment when she returned from cancer treatment — and was ultimately fired and pressured to sign a nondisclosure agreement days after she was hospitalized for mental illness.
The suit comes amid mounting reports of workplace discrimination concerning the now-Democratic presidential candidate and his company.
Laurie Evans, director of custom content for Bloomberg L.P.’s Business Week department, claims that she signed a separation agreement that included a release saying she would not sue after the company claimed her termination was part of the elimination of her entire division. Now she says the company lied to her.
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“In 2019, she discovered that this representation was false and that in fact she had been replaced by a younger worker,” says a court document filed Feb. 11 by her attorney Donna Clancy. She also tried to rescind the agreement, but when Bloomberg did not accept, she sued for fraudulent inducement, as well as age, sex, and disability discrimination.
Evans, who had started working at Bloomberg in 2010, alleges that soon after she went back to work in June 2015 after undergoing treatment for breast cancer, a new acting CFO of the company’s media department began excluding her from meetings, ignored requests and changed working conditions. Her amended complaint, filed in December 2019, says this affected her and other employees, “in particular, those who were female and/or over 40” like her.
Evans claims that the CFO, Keith Grossman, made her fire several women over 40 and did not replace them, putting her in a position where it was more difficult to do her job. From 2015 to 2016, she alleges, Bloomberg terminated at least 30 employees over the age of 40, making her fear that her own job was in jeopardy.
Grossman is now president of Time, which did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
This work environment contributed to Evans suffering from anxiety and depression, she claims, as she relied on her employer-provided health insurance to pay for continuing treatment for breast cancer. Evans reached her breaking point on Nov. 17, 2016, when a close friend was terminated. According to court documents, she had a panic attack that day that “was so severe and uncontrollable that she immediately left work and went to see her primary care physician, who directed her to the emergency room upon observing that she was in the midst of a nervous breakdown.”
Evans was admitted to a hospital “for urgent psychological care,” and she remained there overnight. During her stay, she claims, Grossman called her and her husband answered — telling him that she was in the hospital and might need to take leave for mental disability.
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Three days after she left the hospital, court documents say, a human resources representative from Bloomberg called Evans and asked if she was going to take leave for mental disability. When Evans said she would try and come back as soon as she could, the representative told her she was terminated due to her division’s elimination. Evans says she was then told that she would receive exit documents, including the NDA and separation agreement, which she would have to sign in order to receive any severance pay, salary or bonuses she had earned.
Evans claims that she first learned in 2019 that the claims were not true when a former senior colleague informed her that the division had not been eliminated. Not only that, Evans had been replaced by a younger woman.
“Essentially, we’re alleging fraud,” Clancy told Fox News in a phone interview. Clancy also says that the separation agreement was misleading and created “economic pressure” by saying that Evans needed to sign in order to collect money the company already owed her for past work.
The lawsuit, first reported on by Business Insider, seeks damages estimated to be at least $5 million, but Clancy says “it’s not just about the money, it’s about having the day in court.” If Evans gets a hearing, she would be able to speak out. Clancy also said that Evans is willing to give up the money she collected as part of the separation agreement in order to “get back to square one” and let a jury decide the case.
The company has filed a motion to dismiss, but Judge Adam Silvera has yet to rule on it. Bloomberg’s motion argues that Evans failed to adequately show that her release agreement is unenforceable, claiming that it was “clear and unambiguous.” They also claim that emails “clearly demonstrate that she was fully capable of engaging in negotiations regarding the terms of the agreement.”
Bloomberg also argues that Evans’ lawsuit is without merit because she kept the money she received as part of the separation agreement and that the lawsuit came nearly three years later.
Clancy takes issue with that argument, stating that statutes of limitations exist for a reason.
“If she’s within the three years, she has that right,” she said.
Fox News reached out to the Bloomberg company and Michael Bloomberg’s campaign for comment on the lawsuit, but they did not immediately respond.
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Bloomberg’s campaign is still in its infancy, as he has yet to compete in any primaries or caucuses, but it has already taken hits with allegations of discriminatory practices at his company. A recent Washington Post article included details from other lawsuits and interviews with witnesses regarding comments that Mr. Bloomberg has made to and about women, some of which were included in Evans’ lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the former New York City mayor is gaining momentum in the polls, having now qualified for his first debate which will take place Wednesday in Nevada, and a subsequent debate next week in South Carolina.