Suit Against Family-Friendly Hill, Holliday Alleges Discrimination
BOSTON–A former account executive last week filed suit against Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos alleging disability discrimination.
From 1997 until his dismissal from Hill, Holliday in March 1999, Gerard McDavitt was a vice president on the John Hancock Financial Services account. In 1998, according to the suit filed last week in U.S. Superior Court in Boston, McDavitt advised Hill, Holliday he was diagnosed with cancer and required time away from work to undergo surgery and chemo and radiation therapies. His supervisor, executive vice president Karen Kaplan, told him to take as much time as was needed.
During his absence, and while receiving treatment for cancer and related depression, the suit claims, McDavitt stayed in touch with various contacts at the client and with Kaplan; but in March, hours after talking to Kaplan about his return to work, McDavitt was contacted by vice president of human resources Rebecca Haag and told that his job had been eliminated. A few days later, McDavitt received a letter from Haag “confirming an agreement.” [Haag is now director of human resources at Zentropy Partners in Cambridge, Mass., an interactive agency owned by Hill, Holliday parent Interpublic Group.] McDavitt claims such an agreement was never made.
In that letter, a copy of which was submitted to the court, Haag wrote that “the agency has been anxious to assist you in any potential transition to long-term disability [from short-term disability].” But McDavitt never signed the agreement.
McDavitt, a resident of Hartford, Conn., declined comment when reached at his home. His lawyer, Diana Garfield, also of Hartford, declined comment. A representative from Hill, Holliday wouldn’t comment either.
The suit contradicts Hill, Holliday chairman and CEO Jack Connors’ practice of taking care of those who work for him. Connors’ generosity in taking care of employees who have either fallen on personal hard times or been ill is well established. But Hill, Holliday is no longer a privately held company, and at least one observer questioned last week whether ownership by IPG or Hill, Holliday’s shear size has changed its approach. To that point, the Hill, Holliday representative again would not comment. But when pressed, he suggested that history be a guide.
McDavitt is seeking back pay, reinstatement, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and costs and a trial by jury.
In addition to the suit, McDavitt filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. McDavitt maintains he was let go because of “disability, actual or perceived” and that his performance was satisfactory during his employment.
Prior to Hill, Holliday, McDavitt was director of corporate communications at The Travelers in Hartford and during the 1980s worked at the agency now known as Arnold Communications. K