Former Rapp President Greg Andersen Sues Agency for Wrongful Termination
A lawsuit filed by former Rapp President Greg Andersen against the Omnicom agency alleging wrongful termination, retaliation and discrimination follows an internal investigation of allegedly inappropriate behavior by Rapp CEO Alexei Orlov that did not lead to action by the holding company, people close to the situation said. These people said there are internal emails and video documenting Mr. Orlov's alleged behavior central to the suit.
Several Rapp employees complained to human resources about what the lawsuit charged was "destructive" and "discriminatory" behavior by Mr. Orlov that created "a hostile work environment" at Rapp. This behavior, according to the suit, included calling women "fat cows" and "telling a Jewish employee that he was miserly with money because he was Jewish." An internal investigation by Omnicom, these people said, did not lead to action such as mandating unconscious bias or sensitivity training for Mr. Orlov.
Regarding the internal investigation of Mr. Orlov, Devin O'Loughlin, global manager of corporate reputation at Rapp, said via email, "I'm not able to comment at this time, but will follow up if and when there is anything to share."
According to people with knowledge of the matter, the lawsuit evidence includes videos of Mr. Orlov's behavior, such as a video of the CEO at a meeting in Dallas with staffers earlier this year. The court filing states that Mr. Orlov allegedly "warned the entire crowd, 'Mess with my brand or my direction and I will break off your finger and shove it up your ass.'"
Ad Age also was told by people with knowledge of the situation that internal emails depicting Mr. Orlov's behavior will be put into evidence.
Representatives from Omnicom were not immediately available for comment.
The lawsuit filing states that the "case arises out of a company's repeated failures to show basic respect for the civil rights of various employees," adding that "there would almost be an entertaining quality to the parallels between the corporate culture of Rapp on the one hand, and on the other, the flawed culture of advertising agencies depicted in 'Mad Men.'"
Mr. Andersen deferred comment to his lawyer, Aanand Ghods-Mehtani of Rushovich Mehtani, who did not comment beyond what is in the court filing.
The suit also alleges that Mr. Orlov "pressured a young professional in New York who worked on the Pfizer account to get Viagra for him" because "he has a young wife."
Mr. Andersen alleges in the filing that Mr. Orlov did not take sexual harassment complaints seriously, pointing to a time when an executive in Los Angeles "got drunk and loudly and publicly made lewd comments to a junior female employee," such as he believed she was not wearing underwear.
The document states that Mr. Orlov allegedly "dismissed the prospect of a promotion" of a female employee because he said she was "too pretty" and "no one would take her seriously," a story also told to Ad Age by people with knowledge of the situation.
The lawsuit says that after Mr. Orlov learned that Mr. Andersen went with his complaints to Carolyn Doud, global head of human resources for Rapp, and an in-house attorney for Omnicom, "Mr. Orlov became angry." Around March 16, the document states that Mr. Orlov sent Mr. Andersen a text message that said, "Greg(,) [a] number of my team have come to me as it relates to conversations you are having around/about me [….] When do you think I might have the courtesy of a direct call from you?" About a month later, Mr. Andersen's employment was terminated. The filing states that Mr. Orlov allegedly also stated to Mr. Andersen, who is over 40 years old, that he "did not want [his] company filled with people in their forties and fifties."
Mr. O'Loughlin said via email: "Rapp is aware that Greg Andersen has filed a complaint and denies that any unlawful conduct occurred. Mr. Anderson's position with RAPP was eliminated and we are not able to comment further. Rapp has, and enforces, policies prohibiting discrimination and retaliation on the basis of gender, race, age, disability, sexual orientation or any other legally protected status."