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2 white male creative directors at a UK ad agency sued the firm claiming they were fired because they were men - and won

INSIDER logo INSIDER 7/29/2021 vgu@insider.com (Vanessa Gu)
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  • A female director at ad agency JWT said she wanted to "obliterate" the company's reputation of being full of white privileged men.
  • In the months following that comment, five white men were made redundant. Two sued the company.
  • Ad agency Wundermen Thomson, the successor of JWT, said it would be appealing the decision.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Two white male creative directors who worked at a prominent advertising agency J. Walter Thompson (JWT) in London won a gender discrimination claim Friday after they were fired following a town hall where a female executive said she would "obliterate" the prevalence of white, privileged men in the company.

In 2018, Jo Wallace, a creative director at JWT, said at a company town hall: "One thing we all agree on is that the reputation JWT once earned - as being full of white, British, privileged [men] - has to be obliterated." Wallace had been appointed to help rid the company of this image.

Following that meeting, Chas Bayfield, a white male employee in his '50s, sent a concerned email to his boss, the agency's then-executive creative director Lucas Peon.

"I found out recently JWT did a talk off-site where it vowed to obliterate white, middle-class straight people from its creative department. There are a lot of very worried people down here," Bayfield wrote, according to the judgment.

Peon then called a meeting with Bayfield and another white male employee who had complained, Dave Jenner. The three met with Emma Hoyle, the company's human resource director, to discuss Wallace's comments and their fears of being ousted. The meeting did not go well, included raised voices.

Two days later, both Bayfield and Jenner were made redundant, the judgment recounted.

Peon claimed the pair's dismissal was due to poor work performance. But Judge Mark Emery, who decided the case, said that Jenner and Bayfield's meeting with Peon and Hoyle constituted "victimization."

"Both Ms. Hoyle and Mr. Peon were angry from the outset of the meeting, and it continued in this vein. Voices were raised by Mr. Peon and Ms. Hoyle, and Mr. Bayfield and Mr. Jenner were forced to defend their position," Emery wrote.

We considered that this factor, their sex, was on the mind of [the company] when determining to dismiss them, an equal factor with that of the anger at their complaints," Emery said in his decision.

Emery added: "The Tribunal concluded that the decision to dismiss was related to the fact the claimants are men, that this was a conscious motivation in the decision to dismiss, for reasons including the desire to improve the gender balance in its senior creative team, the improvement to the gender pay gap figures which would result in their dismissal."

Since leaving JWT, both Bayfield and Jenner have struggled. Bayfield told the London Metro he's had a difficult time finding work in the industry, and Jenner has left the industry altogether.

Speaking after the ruling, Bayfield told the Guardian: "We were concerned about diversity and female and minority representation, but we were also worried about our job safety - the word 'obliterated' is a powerful word."

Ad agency Wunderman Thomson, successor to JWT, said it would appeal the court's decision, saying it was "committed to providing an inclusive workplace in which everyone is treated fairly," per the Guardian.

Wunderman Thomson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

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