'Work-Life Balance' Argument Back in Spotlight After Bloomberg Claim Dropped

EEOC said that company discriminated against pregnant women and moms.

August 19, 2011, 1:53 AM

Aug. 19, 2011 — -- A federal judge's ruling this week that Bloomberg Media Co. did not broadly discriminate against pregnant women and mothers is drawing fire because of the judge's comments that companies do not need to allow for "work-life balance."

Judge Loretta Preska said Wednesday in Manhattan that there was no companywide discrimination against pregnant women or mothers at the financial services news company, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission maintained. However, she said that some individual claims could proceed in case, which was filed in 2007.

But Preska didn't stop there, writing, "The law does not mandate work-life balance," nor does it "require companies to ignore and stop valuing ultimate dedication, however unhealthy that may be for family life."

Satisfied Workers Are More Productive

Jennifer Owens, editorial director of Working Mother magazine, said the ruling seemed to take a step backward.

"The best and most productive companies are those who have workers who are satisfied and feel engaged at home and at work," she told ABC News today.

"Every study shows that [these employees] are healthier, have fewer sick days. They're more productive," she said. "If you allow employees to control their own schedule ... They'll work more hours. In the end, they work more because you allow them to find a way to balance it."

Owens said companies should not be legally able to pass over women for jobs just because they are mothers. She said the employee that worked in the office 23 hours a day, seven days a week was not a better worker than the person who ran home to see their children.

"There comes a moment when these employees become resentful to all they've given up," she said. "And your best people leave."

The judge seemed to give voice to managers and workers who say that working mothers should not get special treatment.

Radio host Mike Gallagher recently went after Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, a new mom, for taking her maternity leave.

"And Megyn's still on maternity leave?," he said. "What a racket that is!"

She responded on air when she returned to work: "What is it about getting pregnant, carrying a baby nine months, that you don't think deserves a few months off so that bonding and recovery can take place?"

Studies show that some women are so fearful of new-mom backlash that they cut their maternity leave short.

"The longer I'm out of work, the more I'm worried they're gonna discover, 'Hey, maybe we don't need her,'" said Kristen Carter, a new mother.

Owens said that companies that don't value families were hurting more than just the mothers in their offices.

"It's not just mom but working dads," she said. "It's people who want to run a marathon, people with eldercare. It's everybody. Working mothers are always the vanguard, but it's everyone."

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