A former public relations employee has sued Publicis Groupe SA for $100 million, saying the French advertising company discriminates against women in pay and promotions.

Women make up 70 percent of the company's public relations staff but hold only about 15 percent of leadership positions, the lawsuit says.

A Publicis woman's place is in the back of the line, far removed from senior management positions, almost all of which are reserved for the men, the complaint contends.

The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan and seeks class-action status. It was filed by Monique da Silva Moore, who was global healthcare director in the Boston office of the company's public relations division MSLGroup.

We generally do not comment on pending litigation, but we can say that the fact that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dismissed Ms da Silva's charge reflects the lack of merit to her claims, a spokeswoman for MSLGroup said.

Janette Wipper of law firm Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP, which is representing da Silva Moore, said the EEOC case was a prerequisite to lodging a lawsuit and that the agency issued da Silva Moore the required right-to-sue notice for court.

The EEOC did not issue any finding concerning our client's charge, Wipper later added in an email.

The lawsuit seeks damages of at least $100 million and is the latest of many accusing companies of systematically favoring men over women in the workplace.

Toshiba Corp was sued in January for $100 million, and last July, Novartis AG agreed to pay $175 million to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing it of discriminating against 5,600 women sales representatives.

Da Silva Moore worked for MSLGroup from 1999 through January 2010, when she says she was unfairly terminated after a four-month maternity leave. She earlier worked for the company from 1991 to 1993, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says MSLGroup was in the midst of a reorganization when da Silva Moore took her maternity leave. She says she was led to believe she had a position in her office in Boston, but that upon her return she was ordered to move immediately to New York without reimbursement for relocation expenses, forcing her to accept termination.

The lawsuit says that two other women who returned from maternity leave were also terminated while the company promoted and hired more men at a disproportionately high rate.

The case is Monique Da Silva Moore v Publicis Groupe, MSLGroup, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 11-1279.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer; editing by Maureen Bavdek and Andre Grenon)