Publicis Pays Out Almost $3 Million in Class-Action Gender Bias Suit

By Erik Oster 

Publicis payed out nearly $3 million in a class-action gender bias lawsuit brought against the holding company and its PR agency MSLGroup, AdAge reports.

“The settlement, which resolves the claims of the named plaintiffs and pay and pregnancy discrimination claims of 101 other female MSLAmericas employees, has been submitted to the District Court for approval,” the plaintiffs’ law firm Sanford Heisler Kimpel said in a statement. “Defendants Publicis Groupe and MSL Group have not conceded or admitted liability in connection with the settlement and deny that they have engaged in any wrongdoing.”

The lawsuit was started by lead plaintiff Monique da Silva Moore, a former global healthcare director for MSLGroup who spent thirteen years with the agency, originally seeking $100 million in damages. It alleged that da Silva and other female employees were denied equal pay and passed over for promotion and employment opportunities because of their gender.

The suit also went into detail about the alleged behavior of then MSLGroup U.S. president Jim Tsokanos, who stepped down from the position over a year after the allegations were made, to be replaced by chief client officer Renee Wilson. Despite a long list of ongoing complaints regarding misconduct, Tsokanos was promoted to executive vice president, managing director of MSLGroup’s New York office and then to U.S. president. Among the complaints were allegations of repeated inappropriate discussions regarding the looks of female employees, including during meetings. The original suit also claimed he was “known to take young female employees out for drinks frequently” and that he stated, when looking to fill a position in 2008, that he “need[ed] a big swinging dick to lead the Midwest”–a comment which was allegedly circulated around the company. 

“We are pleased to have resolved this matter, avoiding the cost of further litigation,” MSLGroup said in a statement. “We are confident that our workplace policies and practices are lawful, correct, and non-discriminatory. The Court has made no determination that any policy or practice was unlawful, and the settlement agreed to by the parties does not require any changes in our policies or practices. We continue to be fully committed to the fair, equal and respectful treatment of all of our employees.”