By Kevin McCauley
Monique da Silva Moore, former global healthcare director for MSLGroup, filed a class action sex discrimination suit today against the PR firm and its corporate parent Publicis Groupe, charging that women staffers are denied equal pay, promotion and other opportunities.
Filed in U.S. District Court for Southern District of New York, the suit seeks to certify female employees at MSLGroup from 2008 to the date of judgment. Damages and legal expenses of at least $100M are sought.
Da Silva Moore is now executive VP of North America healthcare at Ogilvy PR Worldwide, part of WPP.
The suit notes that women account for 70 percent of Publicis’ workforce, but only a fraction hold management positions. On the PR side, women account for 15 percent of leadership positions.
Da Silva Moore says she suffered discrimination first-hand. Rising to the “director” spot after six years, da Silva Moore charges that she “hit the glass ceiling that suffuses the conglomerate.”
From 04 to `10, da Silva Moore says Publicis re-titled her position as “managing director,” “North American director” and “global director.” Those “new labels never corresponded with any real advancement,” contends the suit.
Publicis terminated da Silva Moore’s as part of its overall reorganization of its PR practice “immediately upon her return from maternity leave in January 2010.
The suit alleges that that Publicis used the reorganization to promote male staffers, while terminating, demoting and reassigning females.
The complaint zeroes in on the “Viva La Difference!” slogan used in the conglomerate’s diversity program. From the suit: “But for women employed at Publicis, there may be a ‘La Difference’ but it gives them nothing to 'Viva' about. A gender hierarchy haunts Publicis: and the company’s diversity program announces it explicitly: ‘every employee-both male and female has his or her place.’”
According to da Silva Moore’s complaint: that “sentence captures the essence of how Publicis treats its women. All employees have their place: males come before women.”
The PR firm said: “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."
Publicis’ corporate communications chief Peggy Nahmany referred a request for comment to MSLGroup.
Download a copy of the complaint (PDF).