Gustavo Martinez and JWT Officially Deny Allegations in Erin Johnson Lawsuit

By Erik Oster 

In Manhattan federal court today, former JWT global chairman and CEO Gustavo Martinez and the holding company that continues to employ him denied virtually every claim made in the discrimination lawsuit filed by JWT chief communications officer Erin Johnson last March.

Lawyers for Martinez, JWT and WPP had filed for dismissal in May, but those motions were rejected by U.S. District Judge Paul J. Oetken last month, thereby requiring them to address each of the claims made in her initial filing.

In the interim, Johnson returned to work at the agency, claiming that she has been pressured to resign and made “a pariah at JWT” since her return. When JWT’s layers called those claims “incomprehensible,” Johnson’s legal team shot back by quoting one of our commenters, who said Johnson was “like a student waiting to be punished outside the principal’s office.” Martinez, meanwhile, appears to still be employed by WPP, “working on projects in Spain and Latin America” in an unspecified capacity.


Lawyers for Martinez, JWT and WPP did admit to one of the claims leveled agains the former CEO: that he told Campaign’s Douglas Quenqua that he and his wife moved out of Westchester County because it had “too many Jews.”

The law firm representing Martinez, Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP, claimed that Martinez made that statement because “he and his wife wanted to live in a diverse community.”

Lawyers for Martinez also addressed the video of him stating that he would be “raped … and not in the nice way” by a group of “mostly African American” guests staying at the same Miami hotel as the agency during a corporate retreat in 2015. They claimed the clip “speaks for itself,” as Martinez was simply “attempting to reassure the attendees at the off-site gathering,” disputing the “racial composition” of the group he was referring to had anything to do with the line.

Other allegations against Martinez (ie. those without direct evidence or witnesses) were refuted by the legal team, including Johnson’s claims that he referred to black people and Guatemalans as “monkeys,” threatened to rape Johnson in a bathroom and asked her in a meeting “which female staff member he could rape.”

According to a second legal document, filed by the law firm Davis & Gilbert on behalf of JWT, Johnson approached chief talent officer Laura Agostini in an “agitated state” last February and asked if anyone had confronted Martinez about the aforementioned incident caught on tape and then “stormed out” of the office before Agostini had “finished explaining” that she and JWT CCO Matt Eastwood had told Martinez not to use the word “rape.”

The law firm of Davis & Gilbert closed by again requesting that Oetken dismiss the case. Expect another response from Johnson’s team in the days to come.

[Image: Getty Images]