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Lawsuit: Former Bloomberg saleswoman says her boss peeked up her skirt and fired her for complaining

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg speaks at the North Carolina Democratic Party's Blue NC Celebration, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
  • A 27-year-old former saleswoman for Bloomberg LP has sued the company, claiming that her boss looked up her skirt and fired her after she complained.
  • The boss repeatedly sat on a couch beneath a glass staircase to glimpse her underwear, the complaint says, and told colleagues it was a "red day."
  • The complaint is the latest in a long string of accusations against Bloomberg LP and its founder, former presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, over the company's allegedly toxic and sexist culture.
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A former saleswoman for the financial data firm Bloomberg LP claims she was wrongly fired after complaining that her manager watched her climb stairs in order to sneak a peek at her underwear, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The suit, which seeks at least $5 million in damages, is the latest in a string of complaints stretching back decades alleging that the culture at Bloomberg LP, which was founded and is still controlled by billionaire and failed Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, is demeaning to women.
Filed under a pseudonym Tuesday in New York state court, the complaint alleges that Lloyd Preece, a sales manager for the company's terminal business, repeatedly tried to catch a glimpse of the saleswoman's underwear by sitting on a couch beneath a transparent staircase on the company's third floor last year.
The woman, a high-performing 27-year-old salesperson who says revealing her name could risk "retaliatory physical or mental harm," claimed that Preece once told colleagues that it was a "red day," meaning she had worn red underwear. After she complained to the company's human resources department, the suit says, her performance reviews turned sharply negative and she was denied advancement through the company.
The suit comes about five months after Michael Bloomberg began facing scrutiny as a presidential candidate for a history of sexual harassment and discrimination complaints against him and his company. More than 60 women have brought about 40 complaints against the company since it was founded in 1981, claiming that the company was responsible for creating a toxic environment for women. Bloomberg has denied any wrongdoing.
Neither Preece nor a Bloomberg LP spokesperson responded to requests for comment.
The woman, who goes by Joan Doe in the suit, joined Bloomberg in March 2018 as part of its assets and investment manager trade desk, a lucrative part of the company's core business. While Bloomberg makes the bulk of its roughly $10 billion in annual revenue from the sale of its $2,000-a-month terminal, the AIM group sold special platforms to about 14,000 hedge funds, insurance companies, and asset managers.
Doe, who was in her mid-20s when she first joined the company, was initially credited with "top top work" for her role in the group, where she had been the top seller for multiple weeks among her colleagues, according to the suit.
It was only after she asked for a promotion to the firm's London office that Preece denied her advancement and then told her colleagues about her underwear, according to the suit.
"During a work happy hour at a local bar where Defendant Bloomberg employees gathered," the complaint reads, "Defendant Preece commented to several male coworkers that today was a 'red day' referring to Plaintiff having worn red underwear. When male employees asked how he knew this, Preece replied that he looked up her skirt earlier as she walked up the glass staircase on the third floor of Bloomberg's offices."
Doe claims in the suit that she heard about the comment secondhand, and that after she confronted Preece about it, he threatened her, saying, "this could get much worse for you if you don't stop trying to cause me problems."
A former colleague of Doe's told Business Insider that they had heard about Preece's alleged comments from another team member, but hadn't heard them directly. The former colleague corroborated Doe's claim that Preece watched women climb up and down stairs on the third floor of the Bloomberg headquarters from the couches located below.
"I would see him frequent that area an abnormal amount," the colleague said. "It's one thing to be eating lunch there or whatever the case is, but it's another thing to be consistently in that space."
Preece went on to give Doe negative feedback at work, the complaint says, including criticizing her for wearing headphones in the office in violation of company policy. When she pointed out that many of her colleagues wore headphones, the complaint says, Preece told her that he didn't believe her and asked her to take pictures as proof. After she did so, he wrote up a complaint to HR for breaching the company's policy against taking photos at work, according to the suit.
The saleswoman claims that the company's HR department exists to protect the company and its managers, and doesn't "take appropriate action against male employees charged by female employees of sexual harassment."
She also claims that female employees "were encouraged by male management to dress provocatively," that male employees "created and circulated a 'Ranking List of Hot Bloomberg Girls,'" and that they would use the company's internal chat system to "stalk female employees that they wanted to pursue."
On August 29, 2019, the suit says, Doe wrote an anguished letter to an HR representative asking for help. "I gave you details into disgusting comments that were made about me by someone who I'm supposed to work closely with," the letter reads. "How can you expect me to be successful in my role when I'm reporting to someone who has sexualized our relationship? It's not fair to me and it's certainly not a healthy working environment for a young woman at the beginning of her career."
The woman was ultimately fired the next month, according to the suit. In February, Preece started a new position at Bloomberg as a relationship manager to hedge fund clients.
Donna Clancy, a lawyer for the woman, declined to comment for the record. Clancy represents three other former Bloomberg LP employees in discrimination complaints against the company, including another anonymous woman who claims that her manager drugged and raped her on multiple occasions. That suit is ongoing, and the woman has appealed a decision by a Bronx judge to remove Michael Bloomberg as a personal defendant.
While Michael Bloomberg is not named as a defendant in this suit, he has been criticized for a string of crude and sexist remarks that multiple co-workers have recounted over the years, including allegedly telling a pregnant employee that she should "kill it" rather than go on maternity leave, according to a 1997 lawsuit.
Since dropping out of the presidential race in March, Michael Bloomberg has donated $18 million to the Democratic National Committee and has pledged to use his billions to help elect Joe Biden as President.
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