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Verdicts & Settlements

Nielsen Settles Discrimination Lawsuit with Black Exec Who Claimed She Was Denied Promotion

— March 24, 2021

Consumer data and ratings aggregator Nielsen allegedly retaliated against a high-performing Black executive who’d been hoping for a promotion.

Nielsen Holdings has settled a racial discrimination lawsuit with Cheryl Grace, a Black woman who spent years working as one of the company’s top-ranked engagement officials.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Grace was formerly employed as Nielsen’s senior vice president of U.S. strategic community alliance and consumer engagement.

The terms of Nielsen and Grace’s settlement prohibit either party from disclosing the agreement terms.

However, the Sun-Times recounts how Nielsen has spent years protesting allegations of systemic racism. The Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference—which was co-founded by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—targeted Nielsen in a series of protests and reformation campaigns.

In past news releases, the SCLC claimed that Nielsen exercises racial bias when deciding whether to promote or retain executives of color.

Nielsen, notes the Sun-Times, tracks and sells information on consumer habits.

Downtown Chicago
Downtown Chicago; image courtesy of John Picken via Wikimedia Commons,

During her time with the company, Grace jump-started Nielsen’s annual program to document the purchasing power of Black, Hispanic, and Asian consumers, lending the corporation a multicultural face.

Nevertheless, Grace later launched a lawsuit against Nielsen. In her complaint, Grace said that Nielsen’s highest-ranking executives prevented her from attaining promotions, despite her consistently high performance evaluations.

Grace says she tried to raise her concerns with Nielsen’s chief diversity officer, David Kenny, but was rebuffed and subject to retaliation.

After lodging a formal complaint, Grace’s lawsuit asserts she was subject to retaliatory measures, including intentional marginalization and an increasingly hostile workplace environment.

Later, Grace claims her work responsibilities were reduced—and that she was eventually offered a buy-out package to leave Nielsen for good.

The SCLC says it decided to target Nielsen with protests after learning of Grace’s lawsuit.

“We’re going through the court of public opinion, we’re going to expose this to the public,” SCLC CEO Charles Steele said in a statement. “Racism is a virus, no different from COVID-19. And it’s very contagious.”

Steele contributed to the lawsuit’s resolution by purportedly talking to Nielsen board members. He had also tried to schedule a public protest outside Nielsen’s Chicago headquarters, but was forced to cancel the event due to blizzard conditions.

Steele says he’s pleased with the case’s outcome.

“We were not going to sit back and tolerate this type of racism. We wrote to Nielsen’s chairman and CEO. We met with them. We urged them to settle this lawsuit,” Steele said. “And in just a few months, Nielsen has decided to resolve it. So our work is done.”

Grace formally left her position with Nielsen on March 4th. Writing on LinkedIn, Grace stated that she and Nielsen had reached an “amicable” agreement; the lawsuit was then dismissed on March 12th.


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Nielsen settles lawsuit with Black executive over alleged discrimination

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