The executive, Steve Penchina, worked for about five years as exec VP-exec creative director and was among DCA's highest-ranking managers, responsible for some three dozen creatives in his department. He was dismissed last December.
A Dentsu spokesman in Tokyo, Takafumi Hotta, said in an e-mail: "We are aware of the issue involving Mr. Penchina. However, we stand by DCA." DCA at deadline hadn't returned calls. Mr. Penchina declined to comment.
Mr. Penchina's complaint was filed last week with the New York office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on grounds of National Origin Discrimination and as other unspecified allegations related to ailments suffered by Mr. Penchina after the terrorist attack of Sept. 11.
EEOC procedures call for the government agency to investigate the complaint. If the EEOC finds the complaint has merit, it can either bring charges against the employer or give notice that the former employee has a right to sue. In most cases where discrimination is found, the EEOC holds a "conciliation" in an attempt to reconcile the two sides, said an EEOC spokeswoman.
Mr. Penchina was hired in 1996, shortly after Dentsu and DCA settled a class-action discrimination suit filed by five Americans who were fired by DCA. The workers were among a group terminated in 1990 when DCA tried to raise the office's profitability, according to court records. Their complaint alleged they were let go in a round of layoffs because the company had a policy of retaining Japanese employees.
Debra Raskin, an attorney for the defendants in that case, said the suit subsequently was "resolved" but she would not disclose terms.
Mr. Penchina, who is in his 50s, made his mark in the ad community while working on Xerox Corp.'s famed "monks" campaign in the `70s at Needham, Harper & Steers.
From 1981 to 1991, Mr. Penchina ran his own shop, Penchina, Selkowitz. At DCA, he worked on the shop's largest client, Canon. DCA is the 83rd largest U.S. ad agency with 2001 gross income of $26.9 million, down 4.6% from the previous year, according to Advertising Age figures.
contributing: normandy madden