Y&R Cleared in Bias Lawsuit

DETROIT-A Wayne County Circuit Court jury has found in favor of Young & Rubicam in a lawsuit filed by a former executive in the agency’s creative department.
Mary Semak, 57, formerly a Y&R vice president and creative director of the diversified products group, filed the suit alleging both age and gender discrimination in relation to her discharge in November 1995. She was terminated by the agency for “mismanagement and inefficiency,” according to court documents.
The suit claimed more than $1 million in financial damages and asked for an additional $1 million for Semak in emotional damages.
In addition to Y&R, the suit, filed in February 1996, also named Semak’s supervisor, executive creative director Mike Belitsos. It alleged that Belitsos hired Dan Busto, who was 15 years younger than Semak, with the intention of eventually having Busto take over her job.
After Semak was dismissed from her creative director post, where her salary was $85,000, she was offered a position as a senior art director in the agency’s catalog group, for $75,000 a year.
A mediator assigned to the case suggested a $350,000 settlement, but both sides rejected it. The case went to trial Sept. 8, and the jury issued a verdict Sept. 26 after two days of deliberations.
Janet Tooley, Semak’s attorney, said that once the jury’s verdict is entered by the judge as a final order, she will file a motion for a new trial. If that motion is refused by the judge, Tooley said she will file an appeal.
Tooley said she believes the jury misunderstood their directions in what was necessary to find Belitsos and Y&R at fault.
Belitsos said he believes the jury “made the right decision. There’s no question in my mind.”
Chairman John Vanderzee was not available for comment last week.