Archive for discrimination lawsuits

Lawsuit Against Prestigious J.Walter Thompson Advertising Agency Alleges Racism and Sexism

Erin Johnson, Chief Communications Officer for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, has filed a lawsuit accusing chairman and CEO Gustavo Martinez of making “constant racist and sexist slurs” demeaning to women and people of color. She also alleges that Martinez touched her inappropriately and made threatening references to rape. According to the lawsuit, which seeks back pay and punitive damages, the company responded to her repeated complaints by reducing her pay and job responsibilities and placing her on paid leave. Further, she contends that the advertising agency retaliated against a top female executive for complaining about his “abusive” behavior.

Johnson-quoteIronically, the agency is credited with having hired the first female copywriter in the industry, Helen Lansdowne Resor, who later went on to become a creative director. Johnson began working for the company in 2005, and said that after Martinez took over in 2015, she found it “virtually impossible” to present the agency in a positive light due to his behavior. Other allegations listed in the 28-page complaint include Johnson’s claim that no action was taken after she repeatedly voiced her concerns to company leaders at both JWT and WPP, including Laura Agostini, global chief talent officer and head of HR.

Martinez, born in Argentina and raised in Spain, is fluent in five languages and the first Hispanic CEO of a global advertising agency. In response to Johnson’s allegations, he said “I want to assure both our clients and my colleagues that I believe I lead this company with a collaborative and collegial style and did not create the kind of working environment that has been described in the complaint.”

JWT’s parent company, British-based WPP, which represents clients such as Coca-Cola, HSBC, Johnson & Johnson, Nestle, Shell and Wal-Mart, reported profits of 11.53 billion dollars in 2014. On February 25th, attorneys for the company began conducting an enquiry of potentially relevant correspondence regarding these issues, but say they have found nothing to substantiate her claims.

Johnson warned that if Martinez’s “comments were publicized, JWT would suffer serious consequences, including losing important clients.” Attempts have been made to gauge client response to the allegations. However, Johnson & Johnson and Shell Oil declined to comment, while calls to other clients, including Kellogg’s, Unilever, and Coca-Cola were not returned.

Discrimination at Breakfast : Black Lawman in Washington Forced to Prepay for Food

Imagine walking into a restaurant, placing your order for breakfast like all of the other diners, and then being told that you would be required to prepay for your meal before you could be served. When you inquire as to why, the waitress informs you it is because of a “discriminatory” policy that the restaurant has in place and apologizes. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened when black sheriff’s deputy of Multnomah county, Brian Eason, stopped in at an Elmer’s restaurant in Vancouver, Washington one morning in December. Eason has since filed a lawsuit with the aid of his lawyer, Greg Kafoury.

discrimination-lawsuitEven though the request bothered Eason, he went ahead and prepaid for his breakfast as he was asked. However, later that day he returned to the restaurant in Vancouver to inquire about this policy that seemed so discriminatory. While he was there, he spotted a white couple seated and eating their meal and asked if they had been required to pay for their meal in advance. The couple questioned by Elson were amazed that someone would expect that they would have to prepay, according to Kafoury. Soon after, Elson, who is also a real estate agent in the Vancouver area, filed a lawsuit against the restaurant and is seeking $100,000 in compensation for what he has been through.

The restaurant chain claims that the only reason Elson was required to pay was because he sat in the lounge area where previous customers had left without paying for their food, according to their statement to the Human Rights Commission in Washington State during a follow-up investigation. However, there have been similar lawsuits in the past from black restaurant customers who were required to prepay for their  meals. Specifically, in 1994, Denny’s restaurant franchise paid out more than $54 million to thousands of  African-American customers.

There are 25 Elmer’s restaurants in four states and since the lawsuit was filed, the chain claims that the previous policies on prepayment in their restaurant locations is being changed. Elson’s lawyer Kafoury believes that this lawsuit was important to prove a point to young black Americans that they don’t have to accept wrong treatment and discrimination.

Seattle Sued by Man Arrested for Carrying Golf Club

A man that was arrested in Seattle last summer for carrying a golf club as a cane has decided to sue the city and Seattle police officer, Cynthia Whitlatch. The African American 70 year old man, William Wingate, was arrested in golf-club-as-weaponJuly 2014. He was accused of using the golf club as a weapon. Wingate claimed that he was using the golf club as a cane.

Wingate, who had never been arrested before, spent 24 hours in the King County Jail. All of the charges were eventually dropped. His golf club was returned to him in January by the Seattle Police Department along with an apology.

Wingate decided to file a lawsuit just last week regarding the incident. He is seeking $750,000 in damages. The suit was filed in King County Superior Court after the city of Seattle failed to answer the the claim for damages for more than 60 days after it was filed. A claim for damages is required before a lawsuit can be filed against a governmental entity, such as a police department. Wingate filed the lawsuit against the police department and Cynthia Whitlatch.

In the discrimination lawsuit, Wingate claimed he was targeted because of his race. He noted that the arresting officer, Whitlatch made racially derogatory comments about his race and men around the time of his arrest on her personal Facebook page.

Wingate has gotten treatment for depression and post-traumatic stress since the arrest. He is now fearful of police officers he does not know, according to the lawsuit.In the lawsuit, he claims he was arrested while running an errand to pick up copies of The Facts Newspaper for his fellow church members and friends who live in an assisted-living home.

Included in the claim, is that Whitlatch pushed for Wingate to be charged with obstructing a police officer. She claimed that he was “one of the most obstinate, uncooperative and obstructive suspects” she had seen in discriminatory-comments-made-on-facebookher 17 year long career as a police officer. Ultimately, he was not charged with the obstruction claim.

After questions arose following his arrest, the Seattle Police Department apologized to Wingate about the incident and arrest. This lead to an open investigation about the arrest and Whitlatch’s discriminatory comments made on her Facebook page, a public forum.

According to Pierce Murphy, (the civilian head of the department’s Office of Professional Accountability -OPA), the Seattle Police Department still has 180 days to internally investigate the incident before responding to the lawsuit.