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Interpublic Staffer Files $50M Discrimination Suit Against Holding Company

Chairman-CEO Michael Roth and Other Execs Named in Lawsuit

By Published on . 5

A Trinidadian employee of Interpublic Group of Cos. has filed suit against the company for race discrimination, the same week New York officials pressed advertising holding companies to release statistics on minority employees.

The employee, Joy C. Noel, filed suit in Manhattan federal court on Monday against the world's fourth-largest agency holding company. Also named in the suit: Interpublic Chairman-CEO Michael Roth; former Senior VP-General Counsel Nicholas Joseph Camera, former VP-Associate General Counsel and Assistant Secretary Marjorie Mary Hoey, and Carolyn Harding, Interpublic's director of human resources in the U.S. and Latin America.

Interpublic Chairman-CEO Michael Roth
Interpublic Chairman-CEO Michael Roth

Complaints in the suit, which can be found below, include a hostile work environment, promotions denied because of race and retaliation for speaking out against discrimination.

Ms. Noel is seeking $50 million in damages.

The suit claims that , since 1994, Interpublic has fostered a work environment where racial discrimination is condoned and Caucasian and light-skinned Hispanics are treated more favorably than African-American or other dark-skinned employees. Ms. Noel has been an Interpublic employee since 1993, according to the complaint, and has served in the office of the general counsel.

Interpublic denies the claims.

"Interpublic Group is committed to setting an example as an inclusive, diverse and cooperative workplace where everyone is valued and treated with respect," said the company in a statement for Ad Age . "This is true across our company, including in our first-rate corporate legal department. We are saddened and disturbed by the allegations set forth in Ms. Noel's claim and are certain there is no basis for any of the charges she alleges. We will vigorously defend against this complaint."

Ms. Noel claims other female executive staffers at the company earn more than $100,000 annually, while she makes only $70,000, according to her lawyer, Eric Sanders. Mr. Sanders is the principal of an eponymous Manhattan-based civil-rights, civil-service law and immigration-rights firm.

"She's been passed over for various jobs over the course of her career," Mr. Sanders told Ad Age .

Lack of diversity among employees has long plagued adland. The issue was once again in the news earlier this week when New York City Comptroller John C. Liu pressured all four major ad holding companies to disclose data pertaining to the diversity of employees.

Interpublic has, however, been cited as the only firm to be in "dialogue" with Mr. Liu about complying, whereas Omnicom Group has declined to provide the information requested.

Ms. Noel filed the discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year and recently received a right-to-sue notice from the federal body.

In the complaint, Ms. Noel alleges that former Tax Attorney Supervisor Arthur Mason said: "IPG is a difficult place to work. It is obvious that black employees are treated differently. It will be difficult to move up within the company. ... Maybe you should consider employment elsewhere."

According to an Interpublic spokesman, Mr. Mason has not worked at the company "in at least 10 years."

Fed Complaint 04162012

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