Former Publicis China exec files gender discrimination lawsuit

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Faith Brewitt, former ceo of Greater China for Publicis Group’s global PR arm MSLGroup, is suing Publicis, saying she was denied the time and basic tools to do her job.

Campaign Asia reports that Brewitt filed a lawsuit with the Shanghai Arbitration Bureau claiming she was exposed to constant and pervasive discrimination during her brief time with the company, and was ultimately fired due to gender bias.

A translated summary of the suit, provided by Brewitt’s attorney, Gregory Louvel of Leaf Legal in Beijing, briefly lays out the conditions she faced after starting her job: “Ms Faith Brewitt started work on June 14 in Shanghai.

“With no office, no computer, no admin support—nothing was done to prepare for her arrival because the regional HR division did not warn anyone of her arrival,” said the summary.

“On December 9, MSL discharged Ms Brewitt without giving any solid reason,” the summary continues. “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 expanded on her accusations in a telephone interview, saying she was treated differently than her male counterparts from her first day with the company, kept out of high-level meetings and denied basic tools of the job.

“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,” she said.

“I didn’t have a personal assistant—all the other guys had a PA on day one. Every aspect of my role was not taken seriously.”

Brewitt said she was told in December that she was being dismissed because she “wasn’t bringing in the dollars”, she said. But she disputes that claim, 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.)

Publicis fights back
In a statement, MSLGroup denied that Brewitt’s dismissal had anything to do with gender, and defended the company’s track record of female leadership. “While it is our company policy to not discuss the specific details of an employee’s departure from the firm, we strongly disagree with Ms Brewitt’s characterisation of the circumstances and will vigorously defend ourselves against her allegations,” it said.

“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 nondiscriminatory.”

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