Former Exec Sues Publicis for Sexual Discrimination

A former female executive of advertising giant Publicis slapped the French company with a $100 million federal sexual discrimination suit on Thursday, claiming women at the company are often underpaid and seldom promoted.

“A Publicis woman’s place is in the back of the line, far removed from senior management positions, almost all of which are reserved for men,” claims Monique da Silva Moore, former global healthcare director for MSLGroup, a subsidiary of the ad company.

Da Silva Moore was forced out of the company during a reorganization in January 2010 after 13 years at the company’s Boston office, where she acted as a PR agent for healthcare companies, according to court papers.

Following a three-month maternity leave in January, MSLGroup offered her a position in its New York City office. However, Publicis, she says, did not give her or her newborn and two children adequate time to relocate or provide for moving expenses. As a result, she claims, she was forced to turn down the position and leave the company.

Men and women without children who were forced to relocate because of the restructuring, she says, were given time for their move.

Even before the restructuring, da Silva Moore claims that the gender gap was evident.

“Publicis’s glass ceiling might as well be a cement wall,” she says in court papers. “Gender discrimination permeates Publicis’s entire PR practice.”

She says that the MSLGroup leadership team includes only two women worldwide.

Da Sliva Moore, who said that she has won 22 awards, including the 2009 Silver Anvil from the Public Relations Society of America, also claims that she was paid less than her male counterparts in Atlanta and New York.

Although da Silva Moore is the only plaintiff in the suit, other women who say they’ve had similar experiences are named in the complaint. Her lawyers are seeking class action status for the case.

The Publicis subsidiary denied her allegations. “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,” MSLGroup said in a statement.

Her lawyers countered with their own spin. “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,” Janette Wipper, da Silva Moore’s lawyer, told Adweek.