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The former president of Omnicom ad agency RAPP USA, Greg Andersen, has filed a lawsuit against the company’s global CEO Alexei Orlov that claims complaints he made about his former boss’s “harassment” of employees were a “substantial motivating factor” in the termination of his employment.
The suit, filed on Monday in a Los Angeles court claims Orlov, who became global CEO of RAPP in 2014, “was immediately a destructive force within the company.” (Adweek spotted the lawsuit earlier.)
“He also demonstrated through his comments and actions that he harbored discriminatory animus against women and various racial and ethnic groups,” the suit reads.
RAPP sent Business Insider this statement:
RAPP is aware that Greg Andersen has filed a complaint and denies that any unlawful conduct occurred. Mr. Andersen’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.
What the suit claims
On one occasion, Andersen was told Orlov “pressured” a young female employee who worked on the Pfizer account to obtain Viagra for him directly from the pharmaceutical company, the suit says. Orlov told the women he needed the male potency medicine because “he has a young wife,” according to the suit.
The suit also claims Orlov refused the promotion of a female employee to managing director because she was “too pretty” and “no one would take her seriously,” or words to that effect.
On another occasion, the suit claims Orlov dismissed a complaint made by Andersen about a “drunk” male employee – who is still with the company – who said loudly and publicly that he believed a female employee “was not wearing underwear.” Orlov responded to Andersen’s emailed complaint: “I find it hard to fully align all this [. . . ] I do not want to see this man’s demise,” the suit claims.
The suit also claims that Orlov told a Jewish employee “he was miserly with money because he was Jewish,” according to the suit.
Andersen made “several” complaints against Orlov to the ad agency’s global head of human resources, Carolyn Doud, and an in-house attorney at RAPP’s parent company Omnicom, the suit says. He also encouraged other staff members to file complaints about Orlov’s actions.
When Orlov heard about the complaints, he sent Andersen this text message, according to the suit:
“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?”
Less than a month after receiving the text from Orlov, Andersen returned back from a short vacation and was immediately given notice of his termination, which he believes came about after he made his complaints, the suit claims.
The suit claims it was “well-known that Mr. Orlov was vindictive,” referring to a meeting in front of 70 people in Dallas when he allegedly said: “Mess with my brand or my direction and I will break off your finger and shove it up your a–.”
Andersen left RAPP after three years at the agency in April, AgencySpy reported.
Andersen is seeking damages related to retaliation in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), discrimination in violation of FEHA, failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation, retaliation in violation of the California Labor Code, and wrongful termination in violation of public policy.
The suit was filed just over two months after another high-profile ad agency discrimination lawsuit was lodged in the US courts. The former global CEO of J. Walter Thompson, Gustavo Martinez, is accused of making “constant racist and sexual slurs” by the company’s chief communications officer. Martinez, who has now resigned from JWT, denies the charges. The case continues.