IPG, McCann Deny Age Discrimination

NEW YORK Attorneys for Interpublic Group and McCann Erickson have asked a New York court to dismiss a $30 million age discrimination lawsuit filed in May by former Universal McCann executive George Hayes.

Hayes, a 30-year McCann veteran, was dismissed in February, at the age of 53, after being told, he claims in court papers, that the agency believed he lacked the “skill set” required to continue in the job.

In its response, McCann denied telling Hayes he was fired due to any deficiency in his skill set, but it did not clarify the reasons for terminating his employment.

The agency made a point of saying in the filing, however, that “client accounts for which Hayes was responsible had complained that the accounts were being mishandled.”

In his original complaint, Hayes asserted that he had been asked to help out on troubled accounts, “after the client(s) had complained about how (they were) being mishandled by others.”

The agency also denied the allegation that upon his arrival as CEO of Universal McCann last fall, Nick Brien said that young people at the New York office “got it” when it came to new media in the digital age, implying that older workers did not.

Hayes also claimed in his suit that Brien viewed “age and experience as a hindrance, rather than as a benefit” and that “‘young’ was valued in place of age.” McCann denied those assertions as well.

In pressing for dismissal, McCann argued that the company published “firm policies” against discrimination and that Hayes “unreasonably failed to promptly take advantage of the preventative or corrective opportunities provided” by those policies.

Dates for the discovery phase of the case have not been set.

McCann attorneys did not return calls seeking comment. Hayes’ attorney could not be reached.