By Tank Murdoch
(TNS) A women alleging that she was forced into a hostile, discriminatory work environment after returning from cancer treatment last year has filed a lawsuit against 2020 Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg’s company, adding she was ultimately fired then pressured to sign a non-disclosure agreement days later after being hospitalized for mental illness.
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The lawsuit is just the latest setback for Bloomberg regarding allegations of workplace discrimination at his company.
Fox News reports that Laurie Evans, director of custom content for Bloomberg L.P’s Business Week department, said in her suit she signed a separation agreement that contained a release stating she wouldn’t sue after the company said her termination was part of the elimination of the entire department.
But now she is claiming she was lied to by the company.
“In 2019, she discovered that this representation was false and that in fact she had been replaced by a younger worker,” notes a court document filed Feb. 11 by her attorney Donna Clancy.
Evans reported attempted to rescind the agreement as well, but when the company refused to 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.
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.
Court documents noted that Evans reported having a panic attack that day which “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.”
She was subsequently admitted “for urgent psychological care,” and she remained hospitalized overnight.
Three days after being discharged from the hospital, according to court documents, a Bloomberg human resources rep called Evans, according to her court filing, and asked if she was planning on taking leave for mental disability.
After Evans said she would attempt to come back to work as soon as possible, the rep said she was being terminated because her entire division was being eliminated. Evans then says she was told she’d be receiving exit documents including an NDA and separation agreement, which she was required to sign in order to receive severance pay along with all earned salary and bonuses.
Evans learned in 2019 that the division had not been eliminated after all, and that she 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 said “it’s not just about the money, it’s about having the day in court.”
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The lawyer also said that Evans would 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.
A judge has yet to rule on Bloomberg’s motion to dismiss the case on the grounds Evans failed to adequately show that her release agreement is unenforceable, claiming that it was “clear and unambiguous.”