The global chief executive for ad giant J. Walter Thompson, Gustavo Martinez, has denied allegations made in a lawsuit filed by the agency’s communications chief Erin Johnson that he repeatedly joked about rape and made a number of racist and anti-Semitic comments.
“I am aware of the allegations made against me by a J. Walter Thompson employee in a suit filed in New York Federal Court. I want to assure our clients and my colleagues that there is absolutely no truth to these outlandish allegations and I am confident that this will be proven in court," he said in a statement.
Reports of the lawsuit first emerged in the New York Post today (10 March) and claim that Martinez asked Johnson, in front of a group of co-workers, to “come here, so I can rape you in the bathroom” before grabbing her neck and laughing.
Similar instances of Martinez ‘joking’ about rape were also alleged, including one meeting where it is claimed he asked Johnson about which female staff member he could rape. In another instance, he's purported to have told Johnson that another female co-worker needed to be “hogtied” and “raped into submission.”
In the lawsuit, filed in New York, Martinez is also accused of having told colleagues to avoid the “black monkeys” at airports and publically complaining about “too many Jews" and “fucking Jews” living in his neighbourhood.
Johnson has claimed in the lawsuit that she went to senior executives at both JWT and WPP to report Martinez’s behaviour, but that in response she was left out of a meeting and her bonus was cut.
It comes at an unfortunate time for JWT after the agency revealed a documentary series through BBC World News which promised to “celebrate female achievement” and highlight contribution women have on society. In a concerted PR push the agency has also lauded the work it's done internally to support women.
The Drum understands that the fourth and final installment of the documentary will air as planned this weekend despite the revelations about Martinez.