NEW YORK—Monique da Silva, former global healthcare director at MSL Group, has filed a class action gender discrimination lawsuit today in the US District Court in the Southern District of New York on behalf of herself and other female Publicis Groupe public relations employees in the US who she claims were denied equal pay, promotion and other employment opportunities by Publicis and MSLGroup.
MSL issued a terse statement in response to the suit: ““We generally do not comment on pending litigation, but we can say that the fact that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dismissed da Silva’s charge reflects the lack of merit to her claims.”
But according to da Silva’s law firm, Sanford Wittels & Heisler, “A gender hierarchy haunts Publicis…. At Publicis, a woman's place is second place, far removed from senior management positions, almost all of which the company reserves for the men.”
The suits seeks certification of a class of female employees who worked in MSLGroup in the United States from 2008 until the date of judgment and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, back pay, front pay, compensatory, nominal and punitive damages and legal expenses in an amount of at least $100 million.
Of the 45,000 PR professionals employed by Publicis, women account for approximately 70 percent of the staff and men for only 30 percent. Yet, men dominate the senior management ranks throughout Publicis worldwide; women hold only approximately 15 percent of leadership 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," says 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."
Sanford Wittels & Heisler says that afrer the reorganization of the MSLGroup beginning in 2008, the company promoted and hired more men at a disproportionately higher rate, and the few women hired through the reorganization had no children.
The suit also claims that Publicis also wrongly terminated da Silva and other female employees immediately after their return from maternity leave. According to Deepika Bains, counsel for da Silva: "The obstacles that come with being a female employee at Publicis are exacerbated when a female employee becomes a mother. At that point, females face more than a glass ceiling, which often causes them to leave the company voluntarily, or they face termination."