Starcom MediaVest Slammed With Discrimination Lawsuit

Publicis Groupe’s Starcom MediaVest Group has been slapped with another discrimination lawsuit, the second such action filed against the media agency network this year.

In the latest complaint, filed with the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Manhattan, former planning strategist Angela Cahill said she was stripped of a number of responsibilities last year after she became pregnant and then was fired after she complained about it.

Cahill, who had been a top planner for local advertising on the Walmart account, alleged that both actions violated New York State and New York City human-rights laws.

The suit comes amid worries that Adland hasn’t made a lot of progress on the diversity front.

During Advertising Week earlier this month, a number of executives decried the lack of women in industry leadership roles. In April advertising and media recruitment firm Tangerine Watson released an industry diversity study that concluded most minorities working in the field believe their experience as an Adland employee is different from whites, and that the industry is not diverse enough.

SMG has not yet responded to the suit, which was filed in late September, although a pre-trial conference has been scheduled for Nov. 30. Cahill is now working at marketing services firm Focus Media as senior advertising and business development director.

Cahill’s filing stated that she is seeking “all compensatory, emotional, physical and punitive damages, lost pay, injunctive relief and any other damages permitted by law.”

The suit follows an earlier complaint filed by a Detroit-based former SMG staffer in March. In that action, Kristi Goldner claimed she was passed over for promotion because of her race. Goldner worked on the General Motors account and was let go after SMG lost the business. However, Goldner alleged her termination was retaliatory and in response to her earlier complaints about being passed over for promotion.

SMG has asked a judge in the U.S. District Court in Michigan to throw the Goldner case out “in its entirety,” denying any discriminatory behavior on the part of the company and asserting that Goldner failed to take steps required before filing suit, including taking her complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment opportunity Commission.

The case is winding its way through the discovery phase, which is expected to last at least until Mid-December, maybe longer, according to court filings.

Tags: agency, legal, women
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