JWT's Johnson Urges Court Not To Toss Harassment Case

Erin Johnson, chief communications officer at JWT, has urged the New York Judge hearing her harassment and retaliation lawsuit against the agency and former CEO Gustavo Martinez not to toss the suit. The defendants — including the agency, Martinez and holding company WPP — filed a motion to dismiss the case last month.

“Although defendants …are fully familiar with the law governing motions to dismiss, they urge the Court to make factual findings — such that jokes about rape, and comments about African Americans being “strange characters” with a penchant to steal and act inappropriately, are not ‘offensive’ as a matter of law,” Johnson’s latest brief, filed yesterday, stated.



Johnson’s filing also dismissed defendants’ contention that she did not endure a hostile work environment. WPP and JWT claimed in its motion to dismiss that Johnson sent a text message to Martinez shortly before filing suit that noted 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.” 

Defendants argued that the note helped to dispel the notion of a hostile work environment and 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. 

Johnson didn’t address the text message directly in her rebuttal but did argue that the law didn’t require her to note every instance that might indicate a hostile work environment.

“What the defendants cannot explain in their tailor-made scenario substituting for facts: What was Agostini 'addressing' if there was nothing wrong with Martinez’s comments?” Johnson asked rhetorically in her filing.

The rebuttal filing also suggested that the declarations of 16 senior JWT executives attesting that they were not offended by Martinez’s Miami remarks were somewhat farcical and “clearly written by counsel.”

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