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FORMER SAATCHI EXEC ACCUSES AGENCY OF DISCRIMINATION

Alleges Harassment and Being Treated in a 'Demeaning Manner'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- A former employee of the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide in New York is accusing the agency as well as three current and one former agency executives of discrimination based on race, according to a complaint filed in June with the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

Daphne Streeter, who worked as a

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multicultural strategic planner at Saatchi from Oct. 27, 2003, until March 18, claims she was subjected to "harassment [and] a hostile work environment," according to a copy of the complaint obtained by AdAge.com.

Under investigation
The allegations are under investigation, a spokeswoman for the commission said.

The four agency executives named in the complaint are Anne Adriance, an executive vice president who worked on the agency's General Mills account; John Bowman, senior vice president for strategic planning; Mike Burns, then executive vice president and head of the General Mills account and now co-CEO; and Claire Hassid, director of strategic planning.

Ms. Hassid left the agency in June and could not be reached for comment. Mr. Bowman and an assistant for Ms. Adriance referred calls to the agency's attorney, Heidi Young.

Ms. Young, general counsel for Saatchi & Saatchi North America, said it is company policy not to comment on claims and litigation.

Waiting for agency response
A copy of the complaint has been mailed to Saatchi, said a spokeswoman for the commission, which is awaiting the agency's response. Calls to Mr. Burns and his fellow co-CEO, Scott Gilbert, were not returned at press time.

Ms. Streeter, who is African American, charges that the four executives treated her in a "demeaning manner"; over-scrutinized her work performance; failed to include her ideas in a so-called 100-day plan; canceled her client meetings; failed to include her in discussions of multicultural issues; reprimanded her for sending a memorandum to a client; and threatened to terminate her employment.

Ms. Streeter reported the incidents to the agency's human resources department, but no action was taken, according to the complaint. Ms. Streeter claims she was "compelled to resign from her employment" this past March.

Ms. Streeter accuses Saatchi of denying her equal terms and conditions of employment and constructively terminating her employment because of her race and color in violation of local and federal statutes.

Madison Ave. hiring practices
The allegations come as the commission is investigating Madison Avenue's minority hiring practices. Last November, the agency mailed questionnaires to some of the city's largest agencies, seeking specifics on agency staffing, such as the number of agency employees, a breakdown of those employees by job categories and an analysis of employee race and ethnicity within each job category. In May, the probe was upgraded to an investigation, and a commission spokeswoman at that time said, "We are moving head on this as aggressively as we can."

According to a knowledgeable executive, Ms. Streeter learned about the commission after reading stories published in Advertising Age about the probe.

Once the agency responds to the complaint, both sides will be encouraged to participate in conciliation efforts as part of a mediation program conducted by the commission.

If the commission finds for the complainant, possible actions include reinstating the employee or compensation for lost wages. The commission also has the power to order the agency to implement anti-discrimination policies or participate in training. The commission can also impose a civil penalty of up to $100,000 if it determines the discrimination results from malicious or willful acts.

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