In amended suit, BMF employee alleging pregnancy discrimination claims she's not alone
Last month, an employee of experiential marketing agency BMF filed a lawsuit claiming that the agency's leaders reneged on her promotion after she told the company she was pregnant and planned to take maternity leave. Now, the employee has filed an amended suit claiming other women have faced discriminatory actions pertaining to gender and pregnancy at the agency.
The amended complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, claims that after Ashley Berg's suit was filed in February, a "number of women came forward to express they have felt discriminated against because of their gender and/or pregnancy status by BMF and its all-male leadership."
The amended suit names BMF and founding partners Brian Feit and Bruce Starr, managing partner Ed Starr and chief operating officer Eric Brunman and alleges various violations of labor, family and medical leave and human rights laws.
One woman described in the complaint claims she was interviewing for an open position with Brunman when he allegedly asked whether she had children and whether she was planning to become pregnant anytime soon. During a subsequent call, according to the suit, Brunman said if the agency did hire her, it would need her to promise she'd wait a year to have a baby. The woman was not named in the lawsuit. The suit claims that though BMF offered her the position, she declined in part because of Brunman's alleged comments.
The suit also claims that since Berg's original suit was filed, she has faced retaliatory actions from BMF, including releasing her professionally known last name and circulating an internal statement about the suit to staff, "which served no purpose but to deter and intimidate others from coming forward and cooperating with Ms. Berg." The complaint claims BMF has "gone out of its way to look for ways in which to make Ms. Berg's work environment unpleasant, in a bid to force her to quit," including removing her from her private office.
"The amended complaint provides further evidence of systemic pregnancy discrimination," Berg's attorney, Wigdor founding partner Douglas Wigdor said in an emailed statement. "When the Chief Operating Officer has the audacity to ask a prospective candidate about her intentions of becoming pregnant, a very clear message is being sent that working mothers are not respected at BMF Media. We applaud the courage of this witness to step forward and ask others to contact us should they have experienced similar unlawful conduct."
BMF sent this reponse from its attorney, Mercedes Colwin: "This revised filing is just another in a series of attempts to misuse the litigation process by planting wildly misleading stories in the media. My hard-working clients have reached their limit and will not allow the successful, ethical and law-abiding business they have built to be unfairly and inaccurately denigrated by Mr. Wigdor. We will avail ourselves of all appropriate legal channels to respond to and defeat these baseless allegations."