Two men win payout for gender discrimination after female director vowed to ‘wipe out’ JWT reputation
Two middle-aged male creatives at a top advertising agency have won a gender discrimination claim after a female director vowed to “eradicate” the Mad Men reputation of being full of straight, white men.
Chas Bayfield and Dave Jenner, both in their 50s and renowned creative directors at J. Walter Thompson (JWT), were among five men fired from the leading ad agency because bosses “urgently” wanted to address the poor gender pay gap.
A damning report on the gender pay gap had sent “shockwaves” through the company as it highlighted a serious lack of female representation, a tribunal heard.
Hired to help lose the reputation of the company ‘Knightsbridge Boys Club’, female creative director Jo Wallace co-hosted a diversity conference called ‘Crisis: The Mother of All Change’.
Ms Wallace, who introduced herself as a gay woman, told the conference: “One thing we can all agree on is that the reputation JWT once earned – as being full of white, British, privileged [men] – must be erased.’
When Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner expressed “genuine” concerns about their job security, the bosses reacted “outraged” and considered it a “challenge” to their newfound diversity drive, then fired them.
Mr Bayfield, who created the famous Blackcurrant Tango ‘St George’ advertisement, and Mr Jenner worked with the company from January 2016 until their resignation in November 2018.
A spokesperson for Jenner told MailOnline today that he hoped the verdict would “encourage more people to stand up to the ‘Cancel Club’.”
Wunderman Thompson, which merged with JWT, told MailOnline it would appeal today’s ruling.
Chas Bayfield (above) and Dave Jenner won a gender discrimination claim against JWT London after being fired in November 2018 for alleviating job security concerns
Mr Bayfield created the famous Blackcurrant Tango ‘St George’ advertisement, pictured
They were released after meeting with the company and told to leave.
Companies can hire employees from underrepresented communities, but cannot lay off employees because of race or discrimination.
Now the couple, who were behind some wildly successful TV ads, have successfully sued Wunderman Thompson for sex discrimination.
Bayfield and Jenner line up to receive compensation from Wunderman Thompson after winning claims of gender discrimination, victimization, harassment and unfair dismissal.
They lost claims of ageism, racial discrimination and discrimination based on sexual orientation after the judge ruled they had no influence over their dismissal.
Mr Bayfield said today that he has struggled to find work since his resignation and that Mr Jenner has left advertising, adding that they are seen as ‘whistleblowers’ in the industry.
The married father, now 54, of Cricklewood in London, said: ‘We were concerned about diversity and the representation of women and minorities, but we were also concerned about our occupational safety – the word ‘erased’ is a strong word.
“The gender pay gap was humiliating to the company – because it was a terrible gap – and their approach was to go through with who they considered the enemy. They set up a kangaroo track and fired us.’
Jenner’s attorney told MailOnline, “There is nothing comprehensive or productive about defaming one group of people in order to elevate another.
“As this decision demonstrates, there is nothing lawful about it either.
“Hopefully the verdict will encourage more people to stand up to the Cancel Club and rediscover their value as individuals in promoting a tolerant and inclusive society.”
Three other male creatives who were fired settled out of court, Bayfield said.
A judge ruled that JWT bosses unfairly “hosted” Mr. Bayfield and Mr. Jenner, 52 and 50 at the time, because it “immediately helped raise the issue of the gender pay gap.”
The London Central Tribunal heard that both men are straight, white and British. Their work was regularly praised by colleagues and industry peers.
In April 2018, a report on the gender pay gap revealed that there was a pay gap of 44.7 percent.
Ms Wallace had been brought in five months earlier “to shake up the creative team to ensure they were seen as experts in non-traditional advertising and to lose the reputation of the ‘Knightsbridge boys’ club’.”
Described as a “fearless champion of female success,” Ms Wallace held the “tough” diversity presentation with Executive Creative Director Lucas Peon in May 2018.
It caused “controversy” when Ms Wallace said the reputation of JWT – “white, British, privileged, straight men advertising traditional above the line” – should be abolished.
Jo Wallace, who introduced himself as a gay woman at the conference, was hired to help JWT lose the reputation of the ‘Knightsbridge Boys Club’
Later, Mr. Bayfield emailed a boss saying, “I recently found out that JWT was lecturing outside the site where it vowed to remove middle-class white, straight people from the creative department. There are many concerned people here.’
Mr. Peon and Emma Hoyle, the company’s HR director, met with Mr. Bayfield and Mr. Jenner to discuss their concerns about occupational safety.
While Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner said they believe women and minorities should be given a fair chance, they were angrily accused of questioning the diversity pledge.
Labor Judge Mark Emery said they were treated so hostilely that it amounted to ‘victimization’.
Judge Emery said, “Both Mrs. Hoyle and Mr. Peon were angry from the start of the meeting, and it continued in this vein. Mr Peon and Mrs Hoyle voted and Messrs Bayfield and Jenner were forced to defend their position.
Their statements were not accepted at the time and their views were angrily rejected. [There was a] not accepting that they had legitimate concerns about the presentation… their views were considered unacceptable.’
Within two days it was decided that Mr. Bayfield and Mr. Jenner would lose their jobs through redundancies.
Mr Peon had made a mistaken decision before even conducting a review of other senior creatives to see who would be fired.
He claimed their performance was a mistake, but the judge ruled that the work was never a cause for concern.
Judge Emery said: “We came to the conclusion that there was a consensus among… [the company’s] senior management team that Mr. Bayfield and Mr. Jenner had crossed the line with their comments in their emails and during the meeting, that there was anger at what [the company] considered a challenge to their gender pay gap plans.’
The judge added: ‘We considered that an important factor in [the company’s bosses] at the time was the issue of the gender pay gap and that one reason for the resignation of Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner was that there would be an impact both in terms of numbers and the prospect of senior positions release that can be completed by Ladies.
“We felt that this factor, their gender, was in the spirit of… [the company] in the decision to fire them, as great a factor as the anger at their complaints.
“This would immediately help the gender pay gap within the creative team, it would free the team from two creative directors who were considered resistant to change because of their gender; female creative directors were also exactly what [the company] were looking.’
A woman in a similar position would not have received the same reaction, the judge added.
Adrian Scotland, partner to Judge Sykes Frixou, who represented them in the case, said: ‘We were always convinced that the Tribunal would favor us, but you don’t take anything for granted.
‘I am happy for my customers. They are brave people who have put their careers on the line to take on a global venture with the reach and influence of WPP.”
‘Unfortunately, the experiences outlined in this case are commonplace. It is a growing part of the work we do every day.
“Everything good is vulnerable to corruption and with the billions poured into the diversity economy, it should come as no surprise that more and more bad actors are appearing.
“It’s important that people feel empowered to question and challenge bad ideas, especially if they’re hiding behind a good cause.
“There is nothing comprehensive or productive about defaming one group of people in order to elevate another. As can be seen from this decision, there is nothing lawful about it either.
Hopefully the verdict will encourage more people to stand up to the Cancel Club and rediscover their value as individuals in promoting a tolerant and inclusive society.”
A spokesperson for the company, now called Wunderman Thompson, said: “We will appeal the tribunal’s ruling on events that took place within the J. Walter Thompson business in 2018.
“We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind and are committed to providing an inclusive workplace where everyone is treated fairly.”