DDB Slapped With $20 Million Harassment Suit

DDB has been sued by a former creative director for sexual harassment, asserting in a complaint filed last month with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan that he has been damaged “in an amount exceeding” $20 million. 

Also named in the suit are parent company Omnicom Group, former and current agency CEOs Peter Hempel and Chris Brown respectively, and Chief Digital Officer Joe Cianciotto. 

The identity of the former DDB creative director who filed the suit is not disclosed. He is described only as a gay man with HIV. 

The plaintiff said he was “emotionally and physically paralyzed with fear as a gay man being discriminated by his own supervisor,” Cianciotto. Hempel and Brown are named in the suit for allegedly failing to do anything about the harassment that the plaintiff claims took place. 

While DDB “turned a blind eye” to the alleged illegal activity, the plaintiff, who said he kept his HIV status private, asserted that Cianciotto “victimized and bullied” him by circulating at the workplace and on Facebook lewd pictures that he drew of the plaintiff that depicted him “defecating, urinating and with an erect penis with comments about gay equality.”  

Plaintiff also alleged that Cianciotto publicly accused him “of having AIDS when he does not have AIDS.” 

Brown and Hempel, the plaintiff alleged, “were aware of, tolerated and condoned the offensive conduct that defendant Cianciotto subjected plaintiff to and disregarded” the possibility that Cianciotto’s conduct “would cause Plaintiff severe emotional distress.” 

In March, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission issued the Plaintiff a “right to sue” letter. DDB’s response, per the suit, was to request that plaintiff resign “without any basis regarding his work performance.” Cianciotto was neither asked to resign nor terminated “as the offender who unlawfully victimized” the plaintiff, per the complaint. 

The defendants have not yet filed a response to the suit.

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