Bloomberg LP is again being accused of discriminating against women, and now against non-white staff members, according to a new lawsuit.
Nafeesa Syeed, who worked as a national security reporter and Middle East reporter at Bloomberg for about four years, on Monday sued the company in local New York court for discrimination based on her sex and her race as a South Asian-American. She filed the suit as a proposed class-action, in the hopes of being able to include “other similarly situated employees.” She also named Bloomberg’s all-male editorial leaders as defendants, including editor in chief emeritus Matthew Winkler, current editor in chief John Micklethwait, chief content officer Marty Schenker and deputy editor in chief Reto Gregori.
In her complaint, Syeed claims that she resigned in 2018 from Bloomberg News “because of its top-down systemic sex and racially biased discriminatory practices for promotion and compensation against minority women.” Bloomberg is facing a similar lawsuit from a former saleswoman, who sued in June under a pseudonym and the company is now trying to force a public revelation of her identity. In both cases, the women are represented by the same law firm.
“Along with other minority women, plaintiff was undervalued, demeaned and denied advancement and career opportunities despite having extensive news reporting experience covering foreign policy matters, particularly in the Middle East,” Syeed added.
Asked for comment on the lawsuit, a Bloomberg spokesman offered: “We have no record of a complaint at any time during the plaintiff’s employment.”
Before joining Bloomberg in 2014, Syeed worked as a reporter for The Associated Press, produced a documentary for Al Jazeera and did freelance writing for a number of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Christian Science Monitor and Rolling Stone Middle East.
“Refusing to recognize her academic achievements and professional qualifications and prior work at world-renowned news outlets, Bloomberg LP and its male-dominated news operation, controlled and supervised by its all-white male management committee reporting directly to Michael Bloomberg, denied plaintiff positions for which she was qualified, overlooked her and offered those same positions to her male colleagues, some of which were far less qualified,” the complaint reads.
Syeed claims she applied to be a foreign policy correspondent in Washington, D.C., and New York, but was denied. When she complained about the decision, she was told by her editor that the position “was not a designated ‘diversity slot’ and therefore she would not be considered.” The foreign policy position was instead given to a male “reporting fellow,” effectively a news intern, one who Syeed claims to have coached on reporting on federal agencies.
She claims that she was advised to “advocate” for herself and push harder for a promotion, which she did to no avail. On at least four other occasions, male coworkers who started at the same time as Syeed were promoted, purportedly with little or no self-advocacy.
“Bloomberg LP’s glass ceiling caused its female minority employees to doubt their own value,” the complaint reads. “Through gaslighting, Bloomberg LP expected its female minority employees to tolerate the unequal status quo and know and stay in their place — firmly beneath their male colleagues.”
Syeed named a number of instances where she was required to act outside of her duties as a reporter while at Bloomberg and effectively as a “diversity pawn,” starting soon after she began work there, first out of the Dubai bureau.
First, she was directed to invite her sources to a forum and private lunch founder Michael Bloomberg was hosting, while being told that the region was a top market for Bloomberg’s lucrative financial terminals business. Syeed said she was made to feel more of a salesperson than a reporter. Then she was told to compile a profile list of the country’s leaders “expressly for Michael Bloomberg’s personal reference.”
During her time at the Dubai bureau, Syeed claims she and other female reporters were frequently berated by Alaa Shahine, who was a team leader there and allegedly favored by higher-ups, leading her to not complain when he allegedly cornered her alone in a conference room to yell at her about what she would write on a manager evaluation.
Syeed moved Stateside to the D.C. bureau in 2016, starting as a cybersecurity reporter and began doing TV appearances. She soon learned that the pay disparity, which women at Bloomberg discussed among themselves, was steep, with men supposedly earning on average 20 percent more than women. She was also subject to comments from male editors in the bureau on the possibility that she would forget her English grammar since she was “coming from overseas.” And Syeed said she and the sole other South Asian reporter were seated together and constantly confused by male editors and some colleagues refused to properly pronounce her name.
Syeed put this forward as “an example of the racially biased comments well accepted within the company.”
Outside of issues of discrimination, microaggressions, unequal pay and promotion practices, Syeed claims she was undervalued, and racist and sexist “jokes” were openly permitted, that certain of her stories were usurped by male colleagues with no recourse, as were certain high-profile interviews editors insisted on accompanying her to.
With accusations of hostile work environment, sex discrimination and race discrimination, Syeed is seeking class-action status and unspecified compensatory damages.