The judge presiding over the JWT sex harassment and retaliation lawsuit has ruled that a so-called “rape joke” video that has been in dispute as to its admissibility can be filed in the public record of the case with redactions while a sealed copy can be filed with the court in its entirety.
For the last six weeks, both sides in the case have been arguing fiercely about whether recorded comments by former agency CEO Gustavo Martinez at a company meeting last year during which he joked about rape should be allowed in evidence -- and if so, in what form.
The battle began in early March when JWT Chief Communications Officer Erin Johnson sued Martinez, the agency, and WPP for sex harassment and retaliation.
The video contains comments made by Martinez at a senior management meeting at Miami’s Viceroy hotel last year, in which he allegedly makes a joke about possibly being raped in an elevator “and not in a good way,” as well as other comments that the plaintiff has alleged were racist and offensive.
Initially JWT and the other defendants argued that the video should not be submitted at all, claiming it contained proprietary information. But that turned out not to be the case — the video submitted contains just Martinez’s alleged offensive remarks, which the plaintiff argued is evidence of the discriminatory environment at the agency and not a distortion of Martinez’s remarks as defendants claimed.
The defendants then tacked in another direction, asking Judge J. Paul Oetken to seal the tape to protect the privacy of JWT executives seen in the video that are not a party to the suit. A short time later they switched gears again, proposing that a redacted version be submitted to the public file.
The Plaintiff responded that the expressions of those seen in the video responding to Martinez’s comments are critical to the case. Those expressions show that those listening to the former CEO were not amused, plaintiff added.
Judge Oetkin’s order did not explain why he ruled as he did. The terse, one-page order ruled: “Plaintiff may file a sealed copy of the video with the Clerk of the Court, as well as a public copy which blurs or otherwise redacts the faces of any non-parties in the video, such that they cannot be identified.”
Martinez resigned a week after Johnson filed her suit. WPP CEO Martin Sorrell said later at the 4A’s Transformation Conference that Martinez was due his day in court before being judged, but that the “court of public opinion” had already found him guilty. Thus, for the good of the agency, he had to go.