Work-Life Balance

Companies Can Reward Workers Who Give Up Work-Life Balance, Judge Says

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U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska doesn’t have much sympathy, legally at least, for a group of Bloomberg employees who complained about work-life balance and discrimination.

Preska is at the middle of a debate for her opinion last week dismissing a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Bloomberg. “The law does not mandate ‘work-life balance,’ ” Preska wrote in her opinion. “In a company like Bloomberg, which explicitly makes all-out dedication its expectation, making a decision that preferences family over work comes with consequences.” The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal’s blog the Juggle have stories.

The EEOC had contended the media company discriminated against pregnant employees or women recently returned from maternity leave. Preska didn’t agree. Expert analysis showed no discrimination in pay or promotions, she said. And both men and women have complained about work-life balance at Bloomberg. Indeed, the company Code of Standards states that Bloomberg “is your livelihood and your first obligation.”

Any evidence of discrimination is anecdotal, Preska wrote in her opinion granting summary judgment. “ ‘J’accuse!’ ” is not enough in court,” Preska said.

Preska elaborated on work-life balance at the end of her opinion. She quoted Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric. “There’s no such thing as work-life balance,” he once said. “There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” His view, Preska said, “reflects the free-market employment system we embrace in the United States, particularly for competitive, highly paid posts.”

“The law does not require companies to ignore or stop valuing ultimate dedication, however unhealthy that might be for family life,” she wrote. “Whether an individual in any family wishes to make that commitment is an intensely personal decision that must account for the tradeoffs involved, and it is not the role of the courts to dictate a healthy balance for all.”

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