GLOBAL BRIEF: McCanns faces gay-hate suit - Political correctness has become a divisive issue in New York, John Tylee finds

Political correctness - like the road to hell - is paved with good intentions. Nowhere more so than in New York’s biggest agencies which talk a good game when it comes to PC. Now a lawsuit may be about to test whether actions really match the fine words.

Political correctness - like the road to hell - is paved with good

intentions. Nowhere more so than in New York’s biggest agencies which

talk a good game when it comes to PC. Now a lawsuit may be about to test

whether actions really match the fine words.



Craig Ferguson is gay. He used to be a $30,000-a-year researcher at

McCann-Erickson but was fired in 1996 after what he claims was a

two-and-a-half-year campaign of harassment and discrimination against

him by staffers who wrongly identified him as having Aids.



Within the next few weeks Ferguson, aged 35, and his lawyers will go

into a US federal court in pursuit of a $1 million lawsuit against

McCanns.



Ferguson’s suit alleges that a picture of a man with woman’s make-up was

pasted on his door and that he was asked by Steven Xenakis, a McCanns

senior vice-president: ’Don’t you think all the gays with Aids deserve

what they got for screwing around?’ He also alleges that a reference to

his work for New York’s Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center was

deleted from an agency directory.



McCanns, however, is confident the case will be thrown out. Ken Kelly,

its lawyer, claims Ferguson was fired only because his performance was

unsatisfactory and he had not taken the opportunity offered him to

improve it. ’Everybody had been aware for some time that he was gay,’ he

says.



’He has not been disadvantaged by anything that has happened.’



McCanns itself has a number of openly gay senior managers and not even

Greg Antollino, Ferguson’s attorney, suggests his allegations indicate a

deeply embedded anti-gay culture within US agencies. However, agencies

which are conservative by nature often become reluctant travellers on

the PC bandwagon.



As a British manager at one major US shop explains: ’Your welcome pack

always boasts about equal opportunities but the words aren’t accompanied

by much action.’ The reason? ’Big agency managements are either

’waspish’ or Jewish. But whatever they are, they’re invariably quite old

- and almost all of them are men.’



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