Smoking Gun? Johnson Amends Suit Against JWT CEO, Adds DVD Evidence

Lawyers for JWT Chief Communications Officer Erin Johnson filed an amended complaint to her harassment and retaliation lawsuit against JWT CEO Gustavo Martinez Monday, adding a DVD recording that purportedly supports specific charges that Martinez used racist language at a company retreat last year where he also joked about rape.

The lawyers have asked the court to admit the recording as evidence in support of Johnson’s case.

The amended complaint follows Johnson’s initial lawsuit filed last week, where she charged Martinez, her boss, with sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation. JWT and parent WPP are also cited as defendants in the case.

The initial 28-page complaint is filled with numerous anecdotal examples of Martinez using racist, sexist and anti-Semitic language. It also outlines repeated instances when Johnson alleges that Martinez touched her inappropriately, despite her protests. She said that complaints about Martinez’s behavior that she filed with executives at both the agency and WPP went unheeded.



Now Johnson’s legal team has submitted a recording that they say backs up charges in the complaint about Martinez’s comments at the company retreat in Miami. The complaint recounts events at the retreat -- which took place in mid-May 2015 and which was attended by dozens of JWT employees who were meeting to “pilot a new method for generating ideas.”

On May 18, per the complaint, Martinez addressed the JWT gathering. The previous night there had been a party at the hotel’s nightclub attended by mostly African-American guests. During his presentation, “Martinez warned the JWT employees to be careful in the hotel. Apparently referencing the African-American party the previous night, he stated, ‘Check all your luggage’ and ‘all your stuff.’”

The complaint added that at the start of his presentation Martinez “described the hotel as ‘tricky.’ He explained that he ‘found…different and strange characters in the elevator.’ He further explained, ‘I was thinking I was going to be raped at the elevator,’ but ‘not in a nice way.”

With the exception of the DVD recording submitted as a proposed exhibit, the complaint and the amended complaint are quite similar and it was not immediately clear why the recording was not submitted with the initial complaint.

A spokesman for the defendants said they had no comment in response to the amended complaint. Last week Martinez strongly denied all of the charges raised in the complaint — which would include the allegations regarding events at the Miami retreat — in a statement issued by WPP, which also stated that lawyers there have been investigating the charges since late last month and have so far found nothing to substantiate any of the charges in Johnson’s complaint. The spokesman confirmed last week that JWT has begun its own inquiry into the matter.

Separately, Martinez has pulled out of a commitment to participate in a session at the upcoming 4As Transformation conference in Miami (March 21-24). He was slated to speak at a Tuesday session about the impact of Latinos on American culture.  According to sources he told conference organizers he was bowing out “to discourage any distractions from the important discussion scheduled to take place.” The 4As declined to comment on the matter. 

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