Omnicom and its marketing technology agency Code Worldwide have asked a New York court to throw out a sex discrimination and harassment lawsuit filed
against the firms and former Omnicom Management Inc. vice president Frank Manzi. The suit was filed by former Code Managing Director Anna Moca.
Moca left the agency last October, alleging that Manzi and other staffers at the New York office had created such a hostile work environment that it was no longer tenable to stay. She filed suit with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in December.
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.
In a response filed Feb. 1, Omnicom countered that Moca’s complaint “did not rise to the level of an actionable hostile work environment claim." The holding company also asserted that Moca’s retaliation claim was invalid because she “did not suffer an adverse employment action.”
In her original complaint, 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.” In its response, Omnicom denied that Hewitt made the comment.
In a separate instance, Moca alleged that Manzi asserted she must have been having sex with her superior -- Code CEO Matthew McNeany -- to get a promotion. Omnicom acknowledged that Manzi made a comment “in sum or substance that Mr. McMeany must be personally interested in [Moca] because she was not qualified for the managing director role.” Omnicom characterized the comment as “a joke.”
Moca also alleged improper behavior by Manzi and some of the male members of his team toward Moca and other Omnicom female employees. One Manzi subordinate, Robert Revie, allegedly called a female Omnicom staffer a “cunt” on a conference call in which Moca participated, per her complaint.
Omnicom responded that “Revie does not recall making the comment” in the context that Moca alleged. But the holding company did acknowledge that “other [Omnicom Management Inc.] employees may recall that, while the telephone line was open for a conference call involving OMI and Code employees, Mr. Revie recounted a story in which Mr. Manzi said the word “cunt.”
Omnicom also argued that it has “exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any alleged discriminatory behavior,” and that Moca had “unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventative or corrective opportunities provided by Code and/or [Omnicom], or otherwise failed to avoid harm.”
The company also asserted that some of the statements and comments alleged by Moca were barred by statutes of limitations, but didn’t detail specifically which ones.