A former fashion director at the men’s magazine Playboy has filed a high-profile suit against his former employer in Manhattan Supreme Court, seeking damages of $4 million for age and sex discrimination. The plaintiff, a man named Joseph DeAcetis, alleges that his boss, the director of Playboy’s editorial section, teased and criticized him for his “old” appearance and sexual orientation. Among the slights alleged:
• The director made fun of DeAcetis for liking baseball, claiming that baseball is not a sport that “girls” typically enjoy.
• After DeAcetis did an interview on a local TV station to plug Playboy, he returned to the office to suffer an avalanche of abuse from his boss, who said he looked “old” on TV and that his “gray hair” was off-putting and projected the wrong attitude for the brand.
• DeAcetis worked for Playboy since 2000; he’d been on staff since 2005. But despite receiving high praise from Playboy’s CEO and introducing numerous innovative concepts, he found his work responsibilities methodically stripped away by his boss and handed to younger, more inexperienced people.
• Two months after appearing on the aforementioned TV show, DeAcetis was fired. He claims he lost his job because of his age and his homosexuality.
The plaintiff is seeking damages for emotional distress and anguish as well as for back pay owed. A Playboy representative provided a statement to reporters that the magazine would conduct an internal investigation to sort out the facts.
Discrimination and retaliation at fashion magazines seems to be a hot button issue of late. Consider, for instance, the TV series Ugly Betty and Mad Men — both of which portray the lives of cutthroat strivers at high-profile magazine/ad firms. The Devil Wears Prada – a bestselling book later adapted into a popular movie starring Meryl Streep – depicted a fictional fashion magazine editor as the ultimate “Boss From Hell.”
Perhaps one reason why these fictional exposes of the magazine/ad industries appeal to the zeitgeist is that they tap into something real that’s going on. In other words, perhaps these industries promote a mindset that cultivates age and sex discrimination.