This will be an interesting case to follow as it winds its way through the legal process.
Ralph Watson, the former Chief Creative Officer for Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s Boulder, CO office, has filed suit against the agency, and its parent MDC Partners for $20 million-plus for wrongful termination, defamation and related charges in Colorado’s U.S. District Court.
The suit comes after Watson was anonymously outed in January on the Diet Madison Avenue social-media site for undisclosed sexual harassment against multiple women over the course of his career. The details are, well, there no details. At least not public ones. Yet.
According to Watson’s suit, CP+B told him that there weren’t any “credible” complaints about his behavior up to the point of the DMA posting. Per Watson, that’s because there was no misconduct on his part during his CP+B posting or at prior jobs.
No women came forward publicly, as they have in a number of other cases (Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, etc.) to state specifically what transgressions were allegedly committed by Watson.
That’s a problem. Charges like this can ruin a career. They may well have ruined Watson’s; we’ll see. And they should if the charges are true.
But anonymity isn’t acceptable when serious charges are being leveled against someone. What if the only “transgression” that occurred was that someone was passed over for promotion?
Or maybe, Watson provided someone honest feedback, like: “This work totally sucks and here’s why.” Let’s face it, there a lot of fragile egos in the ad world, and it’s not inconceivable that someone may try to “get even” for some brutally honest criticism.
That said, while Watson denies all wrongdoing, MDC and CPB say they stand by the decision to fire Watson for cause. Hopefully, they’ll be forced to show their hand during the court proceedings.
For now, the lawsuit remains a classic “he said-she said” confrontation.
With any luck, the legal process will force the details into the public sphere. If it turns out the agency scapegoated Watson without proof of wrongdoing to get out from under the glare of the DMA “cover-up” charges, as Watson maintains, then maybe he should be paid the millions he’s asking for.
Conversely, if revelations do turn up supporting allegations of sexual misconduct and related behavior on Watson’s part, then he deserves what it seems he already has: a career and reputation in tatters.
But if that’s the case, it’s important to see the details. That’s where the devil is, right?