Female MSL PR staff line up $100m pay discrimination suit against Publicis Groupe

Over 100 past and present employees of Publicis Groupe’s massive MSL PR business in the US have been given the go-ahead by a New York court to sue PG and MSL for discriminatory pay practices.

If the suit goes ahead and PG loses it could be liable for around $100m in damages. Monique da Silva Moore (left), a former global healthcare director for MSL filed the suit in February 2011 alleging women were treated unfairly in pay, promotions and firings.

“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,” says Janette Wipper, a partner at Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP and the plaintiffs’ lead counsel. “Even more importantly, it brings women one step closer to making equal pay for equal work a reality in the PR industry.” Any trial is expected to take place sometime in 2014 although usually in these cases a settlement is reached.

Nonetheless the development is embarrassing to PG which tried and failed to have itself exempted from the action as it’s headquartered in Paris.

Maurice Levy’s marcoms giant has been running up a few legal bills recently with allegations of dirty doings and staff suspensions in its China media business and also in the ongoing row in Greece about the liquidation of its Leo Burnett office in Athens over a media broking deal that backfired disastrously.

And the action will reinforce the widespread impression that pay scales and conditions in many aspects of the US marcoms industry are still weighted in favour of boys and against girls. Given that it’s MSL in the dock this time, it’s hardly good PR.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.