UPDATE: WPP has issued a statement from Martinez denying the charges in the suit. The CEO writes:
“I am aware of the allegations made against me by a J. Walter Thompson employee in a suit filed in New York Federal Court. I want to assure our clients and my colleagues that there is absolutely no truth to these outlandish allegations and I am confident that this will be proven in court.”
Chief communications officer Erin Johnson of marketing agency J. Walter Thompson Worldwide filed a discrimination lawsuit in Manhattan federal court today accusing the agency network’s global chairman and CEO Gustavo Martinez of making a series of racist statements about Jewish people and African-Americans and repeatedly threatening to rape her and other female employees.
The suit, which was first reported by Claire Atkinson of The New York Post this morning, claims that Martinez “grabbed [Johnson] around the neck” on more than one occasion after threatening to rape her in the company bathroom and interrupted an executive meeting to ask her which other female employees he might be able to rape.
The suit also alleges that Martinez once suggested that a fellow (female) executive should be “hogtied” and “raped into submission.”
According to Johnson, Martinez also has a long history of making blatantly racist comments about both Jewish and African-American people. Specifically, she alleges that he complained about living in New York’s Westchester County because he “hates those f**king Jews” and that he told other executives at a JWT meeting that he avoids African-American employees at airport security because “black monkeys … don’t know how to use computers.”
Johnson also claims that she previously complained to executives at JWT and its parent company WPP about Martinez’s behavior and that he retaliated by cutting her bonuses and leaving her out of executive meetings.
When Adweek reached out to the agency, JWT’s head of North American communications referred us to the director of U.S. press relations for the larger WPP organization. He could not be reached for comment.