Class action certification in MSL lawsuit denied

Plaintiffs in the gender discrimination lawsuit against MSLGroup and parent Publicis Groupe were denied class action status "without prejudice" by a US district court judge on Monday.

NEW YORK: Plaintiffs in the gender discrimination lawsuit against MSLGroup and parent Publicis Groupe were denied class action status "without prejudice" by a US district court judge on Monday.

However, by denying plaintiffs class action status, Judge Andrew Carter left open the possibility that they could proceed through individual lawsuits.

Carter released the order to deny the class action "after extensive discovery." The reasoning behind the decision will be revealed in a forthcoming order. The court will hold a status conference on the action on May 5.

MSLGroup said it will continue to "vigorously" defend against the claims.

"The fact is, women, as a group, were treated the same as men in the implementation of MSLGroup policies and practices," said the firm in a statement on Tuesday. "MSLGroup is committed to the fair, equal, and respectful treatment of all of its employees."

"We have received the court order. We will await the forthcoming opinion to which it refers before making any comment," said Sanford Heisler LLP, the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

Monique da Silva Moore, a former healthcare director at MSL, filed the $100 million class action suit in February 2011. It alleged MSL and Publicis paid female professionals less, did not promote women at the same rate as male counterparts, and conducted discriminatory demotions, terminations, and reassignments for female staffers during the agency's 2009 reorganization.

In April 2011, MaryEllen O'Donohue, Laurie Mayers, Heather Pierce, and Katherine Wilkins were added as plaintiffs to the suit.

In July, plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed a motion seeking class certification under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that would have opened participation in the suit to hundreds more women. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

This story was updated on April 1 with comment from Sanford Heisler LLP.

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