JWT Welcomes Erin Johnson Back While Discrimination Lawsuit Carries On

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Erin Johnson
Erin Johnson Credit: JWT

JWT Communications Chief Erin Johnson has returned to the WPP agency today, two months after WPP lawyers said during a court hearing that the agency had requested for her to come back, but she refused.

Ms. Johnson's legal team told Ad Age at the time that JWT had "totally not" asked for her to return to work. She went on paid leave after filing the lawsuit in March.

As of Wednesday, Ms. Johnson is back at JWT's New York office, where she'll report directly to J. Walter Thompson Co. CEO Tamara Ingram, according to an internal note from Ms. Ingram to staffers. "I want to let you know that Erin Johnson has decided to return to J. Walter Thompson from her leave of absence," the four-sentence email said.

Ms. Ingram, a former Ad Age Woman to Watch, succeeded Mr. Martinez on March 17, who resigned "by mutual agreement" a week after Ms. Johnson filed the discrimination lawsuit in New York. The lawsuit, which alleges racist and sexist comments, is still ongoing.

Representatives from JWT declined to comment on Ms. Johnson's return and Ms. Johnson did not respond to inquiry for comment.

It is understood that Ms. Johnson will continue serving in her role of chief communications officer, but her exact remit and responsibilities will be worked out over time. Mr. Martinez is continuing to work with WPP on client business, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

In May, JWT's lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The filing on May 20 said: "It is clear that Plaintiff has twisted the facts and distorted the context to contrive gender-based hostile work environment and retaliation claims."

Ms. Johnson's legal team's June filing stated in response: "Although defendants, and their counsel, are fully familiar with the law governing motions to dismiss, they urge the Court to make factual findings -- such as jokes about rape, and comments about African-Americans being 'strange characters' with a penchant to steal and act inappropriately, are not 'offensive' as a matter of law."

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