Women Secure Certification Victory Against Publicis Groupe

Posted July 2nd, 2012.

U.S.District Court Certifies Female Employees’ Equal Pay Act Class Suit
Against French Advertising Giant, Publicis Groupe and MSLGroup

For more information, contact Jamie Moss, newsPRos, 201-493-1027, Jamie@newspros.com

(July 2, 2012, New York, NY) – On June 29, 2012, in da Silva Moore, et al. v. Publicis Groupe, et al., Civ. No. 11-CV-1279 (S.D.N.Y.), U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr. granted collective action certification to a class of female public relations professionals currently and formerly employed by Publicis Groupe, a French multinational and the world’s third largest advertising agency.  Judge Carter concluded that plaintiffs submitted sufficient evidence to show that female PR professionals were paid less than their male counterparts for the same work and that defendants “pay decisions were made centrally.” He consequently ruled that female employees could proceed as a class against Publicis Groupe and its PR network, MSLGroup.

“We are delighted by the Court’s certification decision because it will provide female Publicis Groupe professionals an opportunity to participate directly in this suit,” said Janette Wipper, a partner at Sanford Wittels & Heisler, and the plaintiffs’ lead counsel.  “And even more importantly, it brings women one step closer to making equal pay for equal work a reality in the PR industry.”

The plaintiffs and the class are represented by Janette Wipper, Steven Wittels, Siham Nurhussein, and Deepika Bains of Sanford Wittels & Heisler, LLP. In 2010, Sanford Wittels & Heisler settled the nation’s largest gender discrimination class action, after winning a $253 million verdict from a federal jury in New York.

In certifying the Publicis’ class, Judge Carter relied upon evidence submitted by plaintiffs, including: (a) documents which showed that Publicis Groupe used centralized compensation policies; (b) a report by Dr. Janice Madden, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who found statistically significant evidence that female VPs and SVPs at Publicis Groupe were paid 8.5% to 11.2% less annually than male VPs and SVPs; and (c) pay comparison charts, which showed that Plaintiff Ms. da Silva Moore, a former SVP and Director for Publicis Groupe’s MSLGroup Americas, and Plaintiff Maryellen O’Donohue, also a former SVP and Director, earned over $100,000 less annually than men in the same position.

This victory for the plaintiffs means that former and current female VP and SVP employees who worked at Publicis Groupe’s PR network, MSLGroup, in the U.S. will receive notice of the class action and will have the opportunity to join the case.  The Court called for nationwide notice because defendants’ “compensation policies require that pay decisions were made centrally.”

In addition to challenging unequal, centralized pay decisions in their suit, Plaintiff da Silva Moore and her five co-plaintiffs have also challenged other discriminatory employment decisions made by the same centralized male leadership team at Publicis Groupe. The all-male team, for example, has hired, promoted and paid men at an increasingly higher rate, widening the gap between women and men even further, after Publicis Groupe reorganized its PR practice under the MSLGroup network.  The same all-male team has also terminated women at a higher rate.  Publicis Groupe, for example, terminated Plaintiff da Silva Moore after thirteen years with the company, without justification, immediately when she returned from maternity leave. Publicis Groupe also fired a VP just one day before she returned from maternity leave and another VP three weeks after her return from maternity leave. Plaintiff da Silva Moore and her co-plaintiffs will also seek class certification of these systemic gender discrimination claims from Judge Carter later in the case.

Steven Wittels, counsel for the plaintiffs and the class stated: “We hope that the Court’s recognition of the pay disparities between men and women at Publicis Groupe will encourage other women.  Because of Judge Carter’s ruling, these women know that they are not alone, and that they can fight together for their rights to be paid and promoted equally to men and to have careers while being mothers.”

Paris, France-based Publicis Groupe is the world’s third largest advertising company, employing 45,000 professionals around the world.  Its 2011 revenue was more than €5.8 billion  ($7.7 billion USD), with its profit for the year reaching $795 million USD.

About SWH

Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP (SWH) is a law firm with offices in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco that specializes in employment discrimination, wage and hour, consumer and complex corporate class action litigation and has represented thousands of individuals in some of the major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents individual clients in executive compensation, employment discrimination, sexual harassment and whistleblower matters.