This is starting to sound familiar.
On Monday, the recently fired U.S. president of Omnicom direct marketing agency RAPP filed suit against his now-former employer. As we reported in Adweek last night, the suit accuses RAPP global CEO Alexei Orlov of discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination.
Onetime BBH New York CEO Greg Andersen claims that he was fired in April (see our post here) for speaking up about Orlov’s “destructive” behavior, which allegedly included enough “sexual and racial harassment, gender and age discrimination, and retaliation for trying to put an end to such injustices” to traumatize pretty much everyone at the organization. This story very closely resembles that of Gustavo Martinez in several ways.
Regarding the specifics of the suit, Andersen and his law firm Rushovich Mehtani LLP claim that Orlov did the following since leaving Volkswagen to become RAPP’s chief executive back in 2014:
- Referred to multiple unnamed women as “fat cows”
- Told a Jewish employee he was unhappy because he was “miserly with money”
- Pressured an employee working on the Pfizer account to get him Viagra directly from the client because “he has a young wife”
- Told Andersen he would not promote a female executive because she is “too pretty” to be taken seriously
- Defended and ultimately retained an executive who got drunk and told staffers in the L.A. office that he didn’t think an unnamed female employee was wearing underwear
- Told a meeting of 70 employees and others in Dallas that “[If you] mess with my brand or my direction…I will break off your finger and shove it up your ass.”
- Complained to Andersen (who is over 40) that he “did not want [his] company filled with people in their forties or fifties”
Here’s where the story gets even more familiar: Andersen claims that he reported Orlov’s behavior to RAPP’s head of global HR Carolyn Doud, the managing director of its New York office and Omnicom’s in-house legal counsel on multiple occasions and got rewarded with the loss of his job. Orlov allegedly texted Andersen in March to let him know that members of “my team” had spoken of “conversations you are having around / about me” and then fired him in April right after he returned from a weeklong vacation.
After the story ran, RAPP sent us a statement:
“RAPP is aware that Greg Andersen has filed a complaint and denies that any unlawful conduct occurred. Mr. Anderson’s position with RAPP was eliminated and we are not able to comment further. RAPP has, and enforces, policies prohibiting discrimination and retaliation on the basis of gender, race, age, disability, sexual orientation or any other legally protected status.”
You may note that, unlike WPP in the Martinez case, Omnicom did not allow the accused to speak for himself. The company also did not claim that there is no truth to any of the incidents mentioned in the suit–only that the (alleged) behavior itself is not technically illegal.
This is a much smarter PR move, and it also amounts to a far less robust defense of the executive in question.
We’ve been receiving tips about RAPP for some time.
In a recent email to New York managing director Rick Doerr that Orlov accidentally sent to all staff regarding a half-day Friday, he wrote: “I am not sure as to why you have given the office off on Friday afternoon. We do not do this for any other of the religions. Unless somebody is Roman Catholic and proven practitioner why would they take this day off?” Orlov, who is himself a Roman Catholic, later apologized.
We also hear that not all of the employees to voice complaints about Orlov were female. Sources with direct knowledge of the matter tell us that the agency’s (male) chief creative officer filed an official harassment complaint against him and that Orlov “retaliated” in unnamed ways against multiple employees in addition to Andersen. Several creatives and strategists have left the agency in recent months including CD Adam Whittaker, who went to AOL.
Finally, sources also tell us that Omnicom conducted an official internal investigation of approximately 19 individual complaints made against Orlov but decided to do nothing.
Updates undoubtedly to come.