NEW YORK (AP) — A longtime spokeswoman for Penguin Group (USA) is suing the publisher, alleging age discrimination and an "orchestrated, coordinated" effort to drive her out.
Fifty-six-year-old Marilyn Ducksworth filed papers Wednesday with New York's Supreme Court asking for lost pay and punitive damages. She resigned last week after 27 years with Penguin and says in her lawsuit that older colleagues had been demoted and forced out in favor of younger employees and that she was ostracized after protesting the changes. Authors she has worked with include Betty White, Ken Follett and Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz.
In a lengthy airing of internal policies, Ducksworth describes a contentious atmosphere, with Ducksworth in frequent conflict with Penguin president Susan Petersen and other top officials. Ducksworth alleges that Penguin's discrimination against her included "diminishing her executive responsibilities, dismantling her staff" and "interfering with her internal and external professional relationships." She quotes one executive as telling her the publisher wanted employees who were "faster, stronger and more nimble because the older, slower version doesn't work anymore." She also disclosed what she calls a plan to replace Penguin CEO David Shanks
In a statement released Wednesday night through spokeswoman Erica Glass, Penguin disputed Ducksworth.
"We can state categorically that it was Marilyn Ducksworth's decision to resign and that Penguin does not condone, nor was there, any age discrimination or retaliation involved in her decision to leave," the statement reads.
Literary agent Robert Gottlieb praised Ducksworth in a message posted Wednesday on PublishersMarketplace.com, an online industry newsletter.
"She was a major part of Tom Clancy's success and Catherine Coulter's to name a few," wrote Gottlieb, chairman of Trident Media Group. "During her time at Penguin her management of big authors' careers was a stunning success. She was always a team player. Her professionalism is unmatched. Her caring work for her authors was boundless."