Former Interpublic Group employee sues Dr Pepper client for sexual harassment

Sexual harassment lawsuit lays bare murky agency/client relationships

A former employee of Initiative, an Interpublic Group owned media-buying agency, has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against an employee of the agency's biggest client, Dr Pepper.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Nancy Mucciarone, a former associate director at Initiative, alleges being sexually assaulted by an employee of Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Upon reporting the incident to management, Mucciarone claims bosses sought to resolve the matter by advising her to move to a different account.

The suit, filed with the US District Court for the Southern District of New York earlier this week, detail an alleged incident in which Mucciarone was sexually propositioned by Dr Pepper’s media manager Justin Whitehead at a ‘Happy Hour’ event in New York last August.

During this episode Muscciatone asserts that Whitehead made ‘repeated sexual overtures’ before pulling her shirt open and groping her, despite being rebuffed. Upon notifying colleagues at the bar of the incident the suit contends that ‘they minimized it and advised her not to go to HR right away’, given the importance of the account to the business.

In a statement Amy Armstrong, US chief executive of Initiative, said: “When our employee reported inappropriate behavior by an employee of a client to our HR department, we immediately took action by providing all information to our client who swiftly terminated this person.”

Whitehead has since been fired by Dr Pepper in light of the allegations but Mucciarone is seeking damages for lost income, medical bills and emotional distress.

The lawsuit has shone a light on some of the murkier dealings which can emerge from agency/client relationships. In recent weeks an anonymous Instagram account has been calling out men axccused of sexual misconduct in advertising and media with the name of 'Diet Madison Avenue'.

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