updated 10/2/2007 8:24:07 PM ET 2007-10-03T00:24:07

Amid accusations that his financial information company discriminates against women who are pregnant or on maternity leave, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday he is proud of the "family friendly" business he founded.

Bloomberg LP, the company he started in the early 1980s, was accused last week in a lawsuit brought by the federal government, alleging that it engaged in a pattern of demoting women, diminishing their duties and excluding them from job opportunities after they disclosed they were pregnant.

The EEOC filed the suit on behalf of three senior employees who had submitted complaints regarding Bloomberg LP; a detailed complaint is expected to be filed this week.

The EEOC is the federal agency charged with interpreting and enforcing laws passed to prevent discrimination in the workplace. It said the activities at Bloomberg LP occurred with malice or reckless indifference to federal anti-discrimination laws.

It is an atmosphere that Michael Bloomberg, who is a potential presidential candidate, was accused of fostering while he headed the company. Bloomberg stepped down as CEO to run for mayor in 2001 but retains a 68 percent stake in the company.

Asked Tuesday about claims that the environment existed while he was in charge, Bloomberg said:

"I'm very proud of the company and what it's done. It is a very family friendly company," he said. "I haven't had anything to do with running it or any discussions about any of their employment policies for a long time."

While Bloomberg was CEO, a female sales executive accused him in a lawsuit of sexual harassment and other claims similar to these new allegations.

The suit, filed by Sekiko Sakai Garrison in 1997, claimed that he and other male managers displayed a discriminatory attitude toward pregnant women and new mothers.

It also claimed Bloomberg and other men at the company made "repeated and unwelcome" sexual comments, overtures and gestures, contributing to an offensive, locker-room environment.

Bloomberg adamantly denied the accusations; the suit was settled in 2000 and the terms were not disclosed.

In addition to the EEOC suit, a separate suit alleging similar discrimination was recently filed in Manhattan federal court by another woman who also worked at Bloomberg LP.

Monica Prestia, who started at the company as a sales representative in 1997, filed a lawsuit in June claiming the company discriminated against her after she became pregnant in February 2005.

The company treated her differently than similarly employed male workers and subjected her to "harassment, a hostile work environment and other forms of discrimination," the complaint said.

The suit seeks unspecified damages and is pending in court.

The billionaire businessman took office in 2002 and was re-elected in 2005. There have been no discrimination complaints filed against him as mayor through the city's Equal Employment Opportunity office, according to information provided in response to a recent request made by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Law.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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