MSLGroup: Former China CEO's gender discrimination suit is 'resolved'

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The action brought by Faith Brewitt in January claimed the Publicis PR agency had denied her the basic tools to perform her job.

MSLGroup has resolved the gender discrimination suit filed by former Greater China CEO Faith Brewitt, according to the agency.

"We have worked with Faith to put the situation behind us, and we continue to be fully focused on maintaining and building our organization as an exemplary place for women to work and grow," the agency said in a statement.

The Publicis Groupe PR agency did not offer further details, and neither Brewitt nor her attorney, Gregory Louvel of Leaf Legal in Beijing, responded to emailed questions.

Brewitt filed the suit with the with the Shanghai Arbitration Bureau in January, claiming that she had been treated unfairly from the moment she was hired as Greater China CEO in June 2016, given fewer resources and less access to her superiors than men serving in similar positions.

"I didn’t have an office, I didn’t have a computer for two months, I didn’t get access to the server for three months, I was blocked on all global calls for four months by the regional president, a man who was clearly threatened," Brewitt said in a telephone interview at the time. "I didn’t have a personal assistant—all the other guys had a PA on day one.

Though it is unclear how the two sides came to an agreement, MSLGroup "resolved the situation before any legal proceedings," said an agency source.

The agency, which has over 110 offices worldwide, including 35 in Asia, took the opportunity to tout its record on female employment. "Women hold 25 out of the 33 top positions in our organization in Greater China," it said in a statement. "MSLGroup remains fully committed to the fair, equal, and respectful treatment of all of our employees around the world and maintaining workplace practices that are lawful, correct and non-discriminatory."

The lawsuit claimed that MSLGroup had "discharged Ms. Faith Brewitt without giving any solid reason" in December, according to a translation provided by Louvel. "Such termination is unfair and grossly illegal according to Chinese law. The way Ms. Brewitt was treated (considering the way other women senior executive in MSL have been treated in the past) raises serious questions about gender discrimination within MSL."

Brewitt said she was told in December that she was being dismissed because she "wasn’t bringing in the dollars." But she disputed that claim in January, saying that "China was holding its numbers during my six months on the job." (Overall, Paris-based Publicis’ revenue in Asia was flat during Q3.) MSLGroup has maintained that Brewitt’s dismissal had nothing to do with gender. 

This was not the first time in recent years that Publicis and MSLGroup had been accused of gender bias. In 2015, the holding company settled a class action discrimination suit brought by more than 100 female employees who claimed they were denied equal pay, promotions and other opportunities. The suit, which the company settled for $3 million without admitting wrongdoing, also claimed that former MSLGroup US President Jim Tsokanos frequently used sexist language around the office.

Last year, Saatchi & Saatchi chairman Kevin Roberts stepped down after proclaiming in an interview with Business Insider that "the fucking debate" about gender equality was "all over," and implying that women weren’t traditionally ambitious.