Ad agency chief insulted Jews, blacks and women, lawsuit charges

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — The head of a major international ad agency insulted Jews, blacks and women in conversations with employees, an employee’s lawsuit alleges.

Gustavo Martinez, CEO of J. Walter Thompson, used crude imagery to describe the minority groups and women, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Manhattan federal court by Erin Johnson, the agency’s chief communications officer, the New York Post first reported. Johnson has worked for the New York-based agency since 2005; Martinez joined the company in 2014.

The lawsuit accuses Martinez of using the term “f– -king Jews” and calling black people “monkeys.”

According to the lawsuit, Martinez said to Johnson, “Come here, so I can rape you in the bathroom,” then grabbed her around the neck and started laughing. He later asked Johnson, in front of other women, which female staff member he could rape, the suit alleges. The lawsuit also charges that Martinez has touched Johnson inappropriately “in an unwelcome and offensive manner.”


Martinez in a statement about the allegations said he “want[s] 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.”

Also in the lawsuit, Martinez allegedly said he did not like living in Westchester County, in suburban New York City, because he “hate[s] those f—ing Jews” and “too many Jews” reside there. He also referred to the chief communications officer at a competing advertising firm, McCann Erickson, as “the Jew” who knows how to “work” the press.

J. Walter Thompson’s clients include Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Ford and the U.S. Marine Corps.

“Despite Johnson’s success as an award-winning public relations executive, Martinez has made it impossible for her to do her job,” the lawsuit says. “Presenting JWT both internally and externally in a positive light has become virtually impossible given Martinez’s apparent comfort in making racist and sexist slurs, even on tape.”

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