Marilyn Ducksworth, the long time Director of Communications for Penguin Group USA, filed a complaint of age discrimination against the company on September 5 in New York Supreme Court. As reported by The Washington Post and Publishers Weekly, Ducksworth, who is presently fifty-six years old, worked with Penguin Group as Director of Communications for 27 years and worked with authors such as Betty White, Ken Follett and Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz.
In her complaint, Ducksworth alleges that Penguin discriminated against her by, among other things, diminishing her executive responsibilities, "dismantling her staff," and "interfering with her internal and external professional relationships." Ducksworth alleges that Susan Petersen Kennedy, Penguin's President, "began a campaign to marginalize Ducksworth and other older, long term members of Ducksowrth's staff."
She also claims that one Penguin executive told her that the publisher wanted employees who were "faster, stronger and more nimble because the older, slower version doesn't work anymore." Ducksworth, in her complaint, states that a new plan was enforced by Kennedy to remove Ducksworth from overseeing corporate communications and from her roles at Putnam and Riverhead. Ducksworth claims that she was required by Kennedy to demote two key publicity team members, both of whom were about 60 years old, and replace them with two employees under 40 years old.
Ducksworth resigned from Penguin last week and, since her resignation, at least one industry insider, Robert Gottlieb, has praised her career. Gottlieb, a literary agent and chairman of Trident Media Group, posted a message on an online industry newsletter, PublishersMarketplace.com, which stated, "She was a major part of Tom Clancy's success and Catherine Coulter's to name a few. 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."
Ducksworth is not the only Penguin employee complaining of age discrimination. Min-Ho Cha, another member of Ducksworth staff, left her employment at Penguin in June after her charges of age discrimination were allegedly met with retaliatory actions. Min-Ho Cha is 49 years old.
Eric Glass, Penguin spokesman, issued a statement denying Ducksworth's claims, "If a complaint is filed, the true facts will be presented to the court in due course. 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."
Additional coverage of this story can be found in the Washington Post and in Publishers Weekly.