Publicis Groupe SA (PUB) and its MSLGroup unit can be sued by current and former public relations employees as a group for allegedly discriminating against women in pay, a judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr. ruled June 29 in federal court in Manhattan that as many as 125 workers can proceed as a group with allegations that they were subject to discriminatory pay policies.
The plaintiffs want to represent a class of hundreds of women who are current and former public relations employees of Paris-based Publicis and MSLGroup in the U.S. The suit seeks more than $100 million in damages.
“We are delighted by the court’s certification decision because it will provide female Publicis Groupe professionals an opportunity to participate directly in this suit,” Janette Wipper, a partner at Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP and the plaintiffs’ lead counsel, said in a statement. “Even more importantly, it brings women one step closer to making equal pay for equal work a reality in the PR industry.”
Publicis spokeswoman Kasha Kruse said she couldn’t immediately comment on the ruling.
Monique da Silva Moore, a former global health-care director for MSLGroup, filed the suit in February 2011 alleging women were treated unfairly in pay, promotions and firings.
The June 29 ruling applies only to equal pay claims in the case. The court hasn’t yet ruled on whether plaintiffs can proceed as a class for other allegations in the suit.
In an e-mail statement, MLSGroup spokesman Michael Echter said the decision was “a procedural ruling only and not unexpected.”
“Additionally, the court made no finding that our pay practices are discriminatory; any final decision on the issue will not be made until trial which we expect to occur sometime in 2014,” Echter said.
Publicis is an advertising services holding company based in Paris, France. MSLGroup is a unit of Publicis focusing on public relations.
Publicis has asked to be dismissed from the lawsuit and alleges that the court does not have jurisdiction over it in the case, according to court filings.
The case is Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Groupe, 11-CV-1279, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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