IPG CEO Issues Memo Promising ‘Zero Tolerance’ for Sexual Harassment

Michael Roth's note ensures protection for whistleblowers

Agencies and holding groups face increased pressure following accusations made against Harvey Weinstein and others.
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IPG leadership took a step today to make its workplace safer as reports of alleged sexual misbehavior by Harvey Weinstein and other prominent personalities continue to spread beyond the media and entertainment industries.

At 9 a.m. this morning, a memo from chairman and chief executive officer Michael Roth went out to all 50,000-plus IPG employees around the world under the subject line “A Workplace Free from Harassment.”

Roth’s note outlined a “zero-tolerance policy for all types of harassment,” encouraging employees to speak with managers or use an anonymous company tip line if they have experienced or witnessed “behavior that runs counter to an inclusive, respectful workplace.” He also directly addressed fears that whistleblowers may be punished for coming forward, writing, “You can do so without fear of reprisal as we also have a zero-tolerance policy against retaliation, and will take steps to protect you.”

He did not elaborate on those steps but did announce that all U.S. staff will soon be required to complete an “online anti-harassment course.”

The note included links to both the company’s official anti-harassment policy and its code of conduct booklet. The latter describes harassment as any behavior “that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with another’s work performance or creating an offensive, intimidating or hostile work environment.” It continues, “Although in many cases harassment is a pattern of behavior, even one word or act may constitute impermissible and/or illegal harassment.”

Roth’s memo follows widely publicized calls for greater transparency from activists led by former agency executive Cindy Gallop, who told CNBC last week that harassment is “a systemic cultural problem” for the advertising industry. He appears to be the first CEO of a major holding group to release such a statement, which follows a note he sent to all staff the day after the deadly confrontation between white nationalists and protesters in Charlottesville, Va. this August.

An IPG spokesperson declined to comment on Roth’s behalf today, noting that the memo speaks for itself.

Adweek has reprinted the full text below.

Memo from Michael Roth: A Workplace Free from Harassment

We have all been reading about the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, including in the ad industry. It is therefore an important time to re-emphasize that one of our core values at IPG is to ensure that all employees can enjoy workplaces that are respectful and supportive. This is about more than violations of local laws—we strive to support a higher standard of inclusion.

Know that IPG has a zero-tolerance policy for all types of harassment and in fact, it’s part of our Code of Conduct and our standard policies and procedures as detailed in SP&P 400.

Sexual harassment isn’t limited to its most obvious forms—such as making inappropriate advances. It also includes any unwelcome verbal or physical behavior that creates a hostile work environment. You should not be subject to any such behavior by anyone that you come into contact with as part of your job—colleagues, managers, suppliers or clients. And the prohibitions are not limited to the office—they apply to off-site events and social gatherings—anywhere that you are with your colleagues or business partners.

To help ensure that our employees are familiar with our policies surrounding harassment, we will soon be launching a mandatory online anti-harassment course in the U.S.

If you have been the subject of sexual harassment or if you see behavior that runs counter to an inclusive, respectful workplace, report it to a member of management, human resources, or the legal department. You can do so without fear of reprisal as we also have a zero-tolerance policy against retaliation, and will take steps to protect you. You may also anonymously contact the IPG AlertLine at 1-800-828-0896 if you are located in the U.S. If you wish to make a call to the AlertLine from a location outside the U.S., visit http://inside.interpublic.com, and click on the box for the AlertLine on the homepage. We will investigate any complaint as thoroughly and confidentially as possible, and any violations of our policy will be dealt with appropriately.