Starcom, Interpublic Push To Get Discrimination Suits Dismissed

Gavel--AAgencies are pushing back against recently filed lawsuits claiming that they are guilty of race discrimination and asking courts to dismiss the complaints.

Starcom MediaVest Group has asked District Court Judge Paul D. Borman in Michigan to throw out a suit by former media supervisor Kristi Goldner, who charged that the agency discriminated against her by promoting less qualified white candidates into positions she had sought and then retaliated against her when she complained.

Goldner was laid off in March of this year. In a separate case, the Interpublic Group of Companies urged New York District Court Judge Harold Baer to dismiss a discrimination suit by longtime legal department employee Joy Noel.

In its 15-page rebuttal, SMG denied most of the allegations brought by Goldner, including the assertion that it had violated numerous terms of an employment contract. SMG insisted that no such contract existed.

The agency also argued that Goldner did not exhaust “external remedies,” such as arbitration and complaints to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, that are required before heading to court. SMG also argued that it has taken steps to prevent discrimination and retaliatory measures in its workplace and that Goldner failed to take advantage of them, as required, by complaining of “any alleged unlawful conduct” before filing a lawsuit.

In its case, Interpublic also argued that the plaintiff failed to exhaust other available remedies before heading to court and that some of her allegations were a decade old and thus barred by statute of limitations.

"Indeed,” IPG argued, “the complaint is littered with references to untimely and irrelevant alleged events, conclusory accusations that have absolutely no factual basis and claims against individuals that even the most minimum amount of legal research reveals have no legal basis."

The lawsuits are part of a renewed focus on diversity within the ad industry. Last month, a new diversity study of the industry was released by Tangerine Watson, the multicultural agency and media recruitment firm, that revealed the widely held perception that career advancement takes longer for minorities. As a group, the study concluded, minorities were more likely to feel a need to consistently prove themselves, work harder and overcome hurdles.

Also, the City Comptroller of New York is challenging Omnicom Group through a shareholder proposal to reveal confidential documents filed with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission that detail minority staffing levels throughout the holding company’s U.S. operations. A vote on the proposal is scheduled for Omnicom’s upcoming annual meeting.  

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