Lawyers Say Erin Johnson ‘Like a Student Waiting to Be Punished Outside the Principal’s Office’

By Patrick Coffee 

In YET ANOTHER development in the never-ending JWT case, Erin Johnson’s lawyers filed a letter today in response to Tuesday’s WPP agency letter that blamed her for any problems she’s encountered since returning to work earlier this month and waved off requests for a conference and preliminary injunction to stop the agency from “retaliating” against her.

This one is thankfully short.

The legal team of Vladeck, Raskin & Clark argue that the opposition has engaged in “abuse of the letter-motion procedure” by essentially arguing the entirety of its case in a lengthy “18-page, single-spaced letter” that attempted to discredit any claims not directly related to the (alleged) behavior of one Gustavo Martinez.

In other words, rather than simply responding to the request for a conference to discuss a possible preliminary injunction that would call on JWT to cease its “retaliatory” behavior, the legal team representing the agency instead made a lengthy attempt to discredit Johnson. That’s the claim made in the latest letter, at least.

As expected, the team goes on to accuse JWT’s representation of “distorting the facts,” adding that “there’s no question that defendants have not wanted plaintiff to return to work at JWT. … defendants had the authority to demand that plaintiff return to work, with the option to fire her if she refused.”

The claim holds that JWT wanted to terminate Johnson but realized that this move would amount to clear retaliation, so it “dropped the issue entirely” instead.

Again, the letter states that JWT tried to get Johnson to come back to work, stopped asking about it over the summer, then brought it back up in September in order to claim that she had refused an offer even though “that has been shown to be as far from true as possible.”

Contrary to JWT’s claims, the letter says global CEO Tamara Ingram specifically told Johnson that she was being placed “in a box” upon her return. It also includes the following line:

“In addition, JWT placed her in a seat immediately outside the HR director’s office, like a student waiting to be punished outside the principal’s office.”

It goes on to restate the initial claim: that JWT’s “perfected optics” were designed to discourage others from speaking up, either on Johnson’s behalf or against the agency in general.

And yes, the lawyers quote one of our readers directly: “Ingram issued [a] public statement gloating and cackling that Erin was going to be in the time out naughty box directly in front of her own desk.”

Their final argument: the very fact that the opposing team filed this letter means that there should be a conference to discuss the potential injunction, given “opposition to a motion that plaintiff has not made yet.”