The New York City Commission on Human Rights has written to Manhattan ad agencies requesting specifics on agency staffing diversity. But here, too, similar ethnic discrimination concerns have been voiced. Osborne Clarke employment law partner Victoria Parry investigates.
New York Advertising Agencies fail to hire eth Agencies fail to hire ethnic minorities…
…is the basis of recent allegations made to the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
The allegations have prompted the Commission to send letters requesting specifics on agency staffing to some of the Manhattan's largest advertising agencies. The Commission are aiming to establish whether Manhattan's advertising industry is failing to comply with New York City's human rights law by engaging insufficient numbers of employees of ethnic minority origin. The enquiries are currently in their early stages. Betsy Herzog, spokeswoman for the Commission, confirmed: "At this time, our effort is fact-finding. This is not an investigation."
If the agencies are found to be violating the law, sanctions could include prosecution for discrimination based on race, religion, colour or national origin and a potential fine of up to $10,000.
The failure of the advertising industry to employ sufficient numbers of ethnic minorities is not a new area for the Commission to be tackling. According to a Commission on Human Rights Analysis published in 1978, three advertising agencies were the subject of the Commission's investigation in the 1970's due to "complaints of discrimination". According to the Analysis, the matter was dealt with by all three agencies signing conciliation agreements. The agreements were based on the implementation of Commission-approved procedures, intended to produce a positive change in their recruitment procedures.
But is this situation unique to the US? Apparently not claim the UK's Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. According to the IPA's report on Ethnic Diversity in September 2003, despite 31% of London's population being of ethic minority origin, only 4% of the marketing communications industry's staff contains ethnic minorities. Of this number, 70% are in support disciplines such as IT and Finance. Whilst these figures may be acceptable on the basis that only 6% of the population as a whole is classed as being from an ethnic minority, it is London where the advertising industry is predominantly based.
The report has prompted a widespread response from the advertising industry. Anjna Raheja, Managing Director, Media Moguls, author of the economic analysis section of the guide and member of the ethnic diversity group says: “As leaders in the marketing communications industry we must ensure that we remain in tune with the changing face of the UK’s consumers, we need to understand that the UK is now truly a multicultural country. In the same way there is a pink pound and a grey pound there is, without a doubt, a brown pound.”
Bearing in mind the fact that under UK law it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a person on the grounds of his race, religion or belief during the recruitment process, employers in the advertising industry may well learn from the lessons that the New York City Commission will no doubt provide.
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