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Judge Lets Lawsuit v. UM Proceed

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NEW YORK U.S. District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein today denied Universal McCann's motion for summary dismissal of an age discrimination lawsuit brought against the Interpublic Group agency by George Hayes, former evp, client services.

Hayes was let go by UM in early 2006 and filed suit here in May of that year.

UM filed its motion to dismiss in November 2007. The shop had argued that Hayes was one of a group of UM executives and staffers laid off and that his termination had nothing to do with his age (he was 53 at the time). Instead, UM argued, he was terminated primarily because he was a senior executive who did not have any clients under his purview and the shop determined it couldn't afford to carry high-level staff that didn't have client responsibilities. (The agency also said it lost key clients that had previously been overseen by Hayes.)

Apparently Hellerstein did not think UM's arguments were strong enough to dismiss the case, although the judge did not state specifically in his written order, dated Feb. 15, why he ruled in Hayes' favor.

In his response asking the judge to deny UM's motion, Hayes argued in December that the performance issues the shop cited were a "fiction" and that younger, less qualified staff members blundered and ultimately cost the agency key accounts yet received promotions anyway.

UM officials and lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hayes attorney Murray Schwartz, a partner in Schwartz & Perry, New York, said he was "delighted" with Hellerstein's ruling. "It will give George an opportunity to present his case to a jury and that is a good result."

Meanwhile, Hellerstein instructed both sides to continue gathering expert testimony and other discovery evidence. He said the parties would meet in July to discuss the status of the case. A trial date has not yet been set.