JWT loses suit which accused agency of removing 5 'straight, white and male' staff

J. Walter Thompson, the now-defunct creative agency which merged with Wunderman to form Wunderman Thompson in 2018, has lost a suit against five former male employees who alleged that they lost their jobs as part of the agency's attempt to be more diverse when employing. The lawsuit was filed the same year JWT and Wunderman merged, according to Adweek, which said the men, including former creative director Chas Bayfield and his colleague Dave Jenner, claimed they were removed from their posts "because they were straight, white and male". 

They reportedly lost their jobs after Jo Wallace, current global creative lead at Wunderman Thompson and then creative director at JWT, said during an industry conference that she intended to "obliterate" the agency's reputation for being "full of white, privileged straight men". The UK tribunal ruled that both men were discriminated against after Wallace's comments during the conference and the case was settled in their favour on 5 July, Adweek said.

Citing Adrian Scotland, the managing partner at law firm Judge Sykes Frixou who spoke on behalf of the five men, Adweek said damages have yet to be awarded and Wunderman Thompson will have about 40 days to appeal if it wishes to do so. MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to Wunderman Thompson for comment.

Separately, JWT also faced a lawsuit in 2016 when former CEO Gustavo Martinez reportedly made a series of jokes about “raping female colleagues and mocking minorities". Former chief communications officer, Erin Johnson, previously accused Martinez of also making racist comments about African American and Jewish employees. She also claimed that the former CEO made sexually harassing remarks towards her multiple times in front of other employees. Martinez resigned a week after and was replaced by Tamara Ingram.

Diversity has become a hot topic for ad agencies nowadays, with many doubling down on diversity and inclusion efforts. Meanwhile, more than 30 agencies including 72andSunny and Wieden+Kennedy also announced plans to publicly share their diversity data last year. Brands have also thrown their weight behind this cause. McDonald's, for example, said in May that its US operations are accelerating the allocation of advertising dollars to diverse-owned media companies, production houses and content creators. McDonald’s total investment in diverse-owned partners – including Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific American, Women and LGBTQ-owned platforms – will more than double, moving from 4% to 10% of national advertising spend between 2021 and 2024. According to the company, spend with Black-owned properties, specifically, will increase from 2% to 5% of national advertising spend over this time period.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s Adland's Diversity & Inclusion Index recognises Asia's change-makers who are pushing the boundaries and cultivating a culture for tomorrow. Nominate case studies of your D&I initiatives for workforce in Asia today!

Photo courtesy: 123RF

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