Just 10 days before JWT Chief Communications Officer Erin Johnson began her sex harassment and retaliation lawsuit against former agency CEO Gustavo Martinez in March, Johnson wrote a text message to Martinez to tell him that she had decided to reject a job offer from another company, “because I am loyal to you and what you are doing.” She added: “I felt like we had a good year together. So I hope I wasn’t wrong to stay. Lol.”
That missive was cited by WPP and JWT in the firms’ motion, filed in U.S. District Court in New York today, to have the suit dismissed.
The suit was filed by Johnson in March. Martinez, who resigned a week later, is now represented by separate attorneys and filed his own motion to dismiss the case today as well.
The note, the companies argued, helps to demonstrate that Johnson’s hostile work environment claims are “baseless.” They also noted that “virtually nothing” supporting such claims occurred during the nine-month period between when JWT Chief Talent Officer Laura Agostini said she was addressing Johnson’s complaints about comments made by Martinez during an agency meeting in Miami and when Johnson filed her suit.
The fact that Johnson did not follow up with Agostini during that nine-month period demonstrates, along with the note to Martinez, that she did not feel that she was subjected to a hostile work environment during that time, the companies asserted.
The holding company and JWT described two federal retaliation claims as “frivolous,” because the sections of law Johnson cites as violated in her suit had to do with unequal pay based on sex and race discrimination, neither of which she claims took place.
The firms also argued that Johnson’s allegations about Martinez making alleged racist and anti-Semitic comments were “irrelevant” to the claims in her suit. They show that Johnson knew “she did not have sufficient evidence to sustain her claims.”
As for the well-reported “rape” comments that Martinez made at the Miami meeting, WPP and JWT cited 16 statements filed with the court from agency executives attending the meeting, who declared they did not view the comments as racist, sexist or offensive as Johnson has characterized them to be.
The companies also stated that Martinez was talking hypothetically in an attempt at humor about himself being the victim of rape and that he was not condoning such activity.
As to Johnson’s claims of “unwanted touching” by Martinez, the companies countered that she “does not allege that Martinez’s touching was based on her gender or that he touched her in a sexual or suggestive manner.”
The motion contends that Martinez was known for showing displays of affection around the office with hugs for both men and women, which Johnson “promoted and publicized in the JWT newsletters that she called “Hug Reports.”
Bottom line, the firms argued, Martinez’s “sporadic” use of terms like rape and sex “are not sufficient conduct to sustain a hostile work environment claim.”
“In sum it is clear that every move on Plaintiff’s part, starting with the filing of a Complaint with allegations that are in part irrelevant to her, distorted and fabricated, was designed to make a splash with the media.”
Defendants cited the widely reported “rape joke” video, a redacted version of which Johnson filed with the court’s public file and the uploaded to Vimeo for further public access, demonstrating her desire to “try this case in the press and attempt to intentionally harm JWT.”