Sex-Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against Publicis

This morning, a former female executive of Publicis Groupe SA’s public relations unit filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging “systemic, company-wide discrimination against its female PR employees in the United States.”

The lawsuit seeks class-action status for female PR employees who worked at Publicis in the U.S. from 2008 until a judgment is entered. The suit, filed in Manhattan, is asking for $100 million in back pay, damages, and legal expenses. Monique da Silva Moore, a former global health-care director for PR firm MSLGroup, filed the complaint.

A spokesperson at MSLGroup told PR Daily: “We generally do not comment on pending litigation, but we can say that the fact that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dismissed Ms. da Silva’s charge reflects the lack of merit to her claims.”

Janette Wipper, a partner at Sanford Heisler, the law firm representing Silva Moore and the class, responded to the MSLGroup’s statement. In an e-mail to PR Daily, Wipper said: “The EEOC did not issue any finding concerning our client’s charge and did issue a right to sue letter. However, the EEOC’s investigation has no bearing on the litigation.”

The suit offers three examples of gender discrimination at the company:

1. Paying plaintiff [Silva Moore] and other female PR employees less than similarly-situated male employees;
2. Failing to promote or advance [Silva Moore] and other female PR employees at the same rate as similarly situated male employees;
3. Carrying out discriminatory terminations, demotions, and/or job reassignments of female PR employees when the company reorganized its PR practice beginning in 2008, including wrongfully terminating [Silva Moore] immediately following her return from maternity leave after 13 years of exemplary employment with the company.

The suit says that 70 percent of Publicis Groupe’s 45,000 PR professionals worldwide—the company is based in Paris—are female. Men account for 30 percent. It further noted:

While Publicis funnels women into entry level rank-and-file positions at a disproportionate rate, these female PR employees rarely break through the glass ceiling at any agency in the conglomerate. Men dominate the senior management ranks throughout Publicis worldwide.

Only men serve on Publicis Groupe’s five-member Management Board, known as the “Directoire,” and only two women are members of Publicis’s 13-member Executive Board, the “P12.”

Only two women are part of the MSLGroup leadership team worldwide, and only one female sits on the senior management team of MSLGroup Americas in the United States.

Across Publicis’s PR practice, upon information and belief, women hold approximately 15 percent of leadership positions compared with 70 percent of staff positions.

“Women began dominating the public relations industry in the 1980s, but, even three decades later, they have had little success in advancing to the highest levels of management at Publicis Groupe,” said Janette Wipper, class counsel in the case. “While a woman might be able to reach the director level at Publicis, it is nearly impossible for her to advance beyond that level, no matter how well she performs.”

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