IPG’s Michael Roth Issues All-Staff Memo Promising to Protect Employees Who Report Harassment

By Patrick Coffee 

CEO and chairman Michael Roth of IPG appeared to be the first holding company leader to respond to a wave of sexual harassment complaints currently upending the worlds of media and entertainment.

Today Roth sent a memo to all employees around the world encouraging them to report incidents of harassment and promising that whistleblowers will not be punished in retaliation.

The note was less an announcement than a statement of solidarity with IPG’s 50,000-plus employees, as Roth did not indicate any policy changes.


Perhaps most significantly, he promised that IPG would maintain a “zero-tolerance policy against retaliation” against those who come forward. He did not, however, make clear how the organization would follow through.

Some may read this as a response to the case of Erin Johnson, whose lawyers compared her to “a student waiting to be punished outside the principal’s office” in a November 2016 filing arguing that JWT had punished her for suing the agency and its now-former CEO Gustavo Martinez. WPP’s law firm of Davis & Gilbert had previously called her claims “incomprehensible,” arguing that “it is hard to imagine a scenario that would be less retaliatory than that presented by the facts here.”

Here’s the full email that went out this morning.

memo from Michael Roth

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.

Ultimately, we all perform best and serve our clients most effectively when we operate in an environment free from harassment and where behavior to the contrary will not be tolerated. We appreciate your cooperation in helping to ensure that IPG is always such a place.

Michael Roth

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, IPG