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Executive sues Nielsen, claims discrimination blocked promotions

Cheryl Grace said she began to feel hostility against her after pointing out discrimination in a June letter to Nielsen’s CEO.

Cheryl Grace, Neilsen senior vice president
Cheryl Grace
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A Chicago-based employee has sued Nielsen Holdings, saying racial discrimination was the reason she’s long been passed over for promotions.

Cheryl Grace, who is Black, was not promoted despite numerous efforts to climb the ranks and high performance for the company that tracks consumer habits, according to the federal lawsuit filed Monday.

For most of her 16 years with the company, Grace has focused on reports highlighting the tastes and buying power of multicultural consumers, particularly African Americans. Her current title is senior vice president of U.S. strategic community alliances and consumer engagement.

In a June 3 letter to Nielsen CEO David Kenny, she explained African American women at the company were not being promoted, leaving them without hope. She said African American people are “labeled as negative, troublemakers, combative or self-aggrandizing” when they try to point out the discrepancy and how it could damage the company’s reputation.

She also wrote that African American workers often don’t speak up out of fear of retaliation.

The lawsuit said after Grace sent the letter, she was marginalized and subjected to a hostile work environment. Her role, team and budget were “substantially reduced” and human resources began to raise questions about several of Grace’s expenses approved years earlier, according to the suit.

Grace declined to be interviewed.

In an email, a Nielsen spokeswoman praised Grace’s work for the company and said Nielsen was committed to diversity but had no comment on the lawsuit because it had yet to be reviewed.

“The company stands for celebrating and counting every voice. We are committed to ensuring a diverse and inclusive workplace long into the future,” the spokeswoman said. “In her 16 years with Nielsen, Mrs. Grace has been an important part of our company’s journey to become a more diverse and inclusive firm. Nielsen has long recognized and appreciated her commitment to our company and Chicago’s Black community as evidenced by her breadth of responsibilities.”

Nielsen tried “to push her out” by offering her a buyout package, which Grace refused, the suit said.