Omnicom, Code Hit With Sexual Harassment Suit

by , Dec 21, 2012, 1:31 PM
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courtroomOmnicom, its marketing technology agency Code Worldwide and a former vice president at the agency, Frank Manzi, have been slapped with a sexual discrimination lawsuit by a former managing director at Code, Anna Moca.

Moca left the agency in October, alleging that Manzi and other staffers at the New York office had created such a hostile work environment it was no longer tenable for her to stay. She filed suit with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan earlier this month.

Moca is seeking unspecified damages for gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliatory conduct which she said violated Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the human rights laws of both New York City and State.

Asked for comment, Omnicom stated: “Anna Moca was employed by Code, an Omnicom subsidiary, until she resigned in October 2012 to pursue another opportunity at White & Case. Code and Omnicom are aware that the complaint has been filed and deny that any unlawful conduct occurred.  Omnicom and its subsidiaries, including Code, have policies prohibiting discrimination and retaliation on the basis of gender, race, age, disability or any other legally protected status.”

Moca alleged that Omnicom has fostered a “culture of discrimination.” She cited a comment allegedly made by Omnicom treasurer Dennis Hewitt reported to her by another colleague at the company. In the paraphrased wording of the filing Hewitt allegedly said that “gender discrimination was business as usual for Omnicom.”

The filing also reported alleged improper behavior by Manzi and some of the male members of his team toward Moca and other Omnicom female employees. One Manzi subordinate allegedly called a female Omnicom staffer a “cunt” on a conference call in which Moca participated, per the filing.

Manzi was charged with “habitually [making] inappropriate and sexual remarks" during work meetings. One example: In a meeting attended by Omnicom CFO Randall Weisenburger, Manzi allegedly said (after Weisenburger left the room), “I know one thing: Randy is much nicer when [Moca] is in the room.” In a separate instance, Moca alleged that Manzi asserted she must have been having sex with her superior -- Code CEO Matthew McNeany--to get her promotion.

The suit is the second discrimination action brought against Omnicom and subsidiaries in recent months.

In September Ray Katz, former managing director at OMD’s Optimum Sports unit, sued for wrongful termination and discrimination based on his age, religion and marital status. Omnicom is defending and an appearance regarding a motion to dismiss before New York State Supreme Court Judge Doris Ling-Cohan is scheduled for January.

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