Two middle-aged white male creatives at a top advertising agency have won a sex discrimination claim after a female director vowed to ‘obliterate’ its Mad Men reputation of being full of straight, white men.
Chas Bayfield and Dave Jenner, both in their fifties and renowned creative directors at JWT, were axed from the leading ad agency because bosses ‘urgently’ wanted to address its poor gender pay gap.
A damning gender pay gap report had sent ‘shock waves’ through the firm as it highlighted there was a serious lack of female representation, a tribunal heard.
Female creative director Jo Wallace was appointed to help lose the company’s ‘Knightsbridge Boys Club’ reputation and jointly held a diversity conference called ‘Crisis: The Mother of All Change’.
Chas Bayfield (above) and Dave Jenner won a sex discrimination claim against JWT London after being fired in November 2018 for addressing concerns about job security
Ms Wallace, who introduced herself as a gay woman, told the conference: ‘One thing we all agree on is that the reputation JWT once earnt – as being full of white, British, privileged [men] – has to be obliterated.’
When Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner expressed ‘valid’ concerns over the safety of their jobs, bosses reacted ‘furiously’ and took it as a ‘challenge’ to their new diversity drive, then made them redundant.
They were let go after a meeting with the company and were told to leave.
Companies can hire from under-represented communities, but cannot fire employees for race or discrimination.
Now the pair, who were behind some hugely successful TV adverts, have successfully sued Wunderman Thompson – which merged with JWT – for sex discrimination.
A judge ruled that JWT bosses unfairly got ‘rid’ of Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner, 52 and 50 at the time, because it ‘immediately assisted the gender pay gap issue’.
The London Central tribunal heard both men are straight, white and British. Their work regularly received praise from colleagues and industry peers.
In April 2018, a gender pay gap report revealed there was a pay gap of 44.7 per cent.
Ms Wallace had been brought in five months earlier ‘on the need to shake up the creative team to ensure they were seen as experts in non-traditional advertising, and to lose the reputation as the ‘Knightsbridge boys club’.’
Jo Wallace, who introduced herself as a gay woman at the conference, was appointed to help JWT lose its ‘Knightsbridge Boys Club’ reputation
Ms Wallace, who has been described as a ‘fearless champion of female success’, held the ‘hard-hitting’ diversity presentation with executive creative director Lucas Peon in May 2018.
It caused ‘controversy’ when Ms Wallace said JWT’s reputation – ‘white, British, privileged, straight men creating traditional, above the line advertising’ – needed to be abolished.
Later, Mr Bayfield sent an email to a boss saying: ‘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.’
Mr Peon and Emma Hoyle, the company’s HR director, called a meeting with Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner to discuss their concerns about job safety.
Though Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner said they believe women and minorities should have a fair chance, they were angrily accused of challenging the diversity pledge.
Employment Judge Mark Emery said they were treated in such a hostile manner it amounted to ‘victimisation’.
Judge Emery said: ‘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.
‘Their explanations were not at the time accepted and their points of view were angrily dismissed.
‘[There was a] failure to accept that they had any valid concerns about the presentation… their views were regarded as unacceptable.’
Within two days it had been decided that Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner would lose their jobs to redundancies.
Mr Peon had unfairly made his mind up before even carrying out an assessment of other senior creatives to see who would be axed.
He claimed their performance was at fault, but the judge ruled the work never had concerns.
Judge Emery said: ‘We concluded there was a consensus amongst [the company’s] senior management team that Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner had overstepped the mark with their comments in their emails and at the meeting, that there was anger at what [the company] considered a challenge to their plans on the gender pay gap issue.’
The judge added: ‘We considered that a significant factor in [the company’s bosses] minds at this time was the gender pay gap issue, and that a reason for dismissing Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner was there would be an impact, both in terms of the figures, and by the prospect of having senior positions opening which could be filled by women.
‘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.
‘This would immediately assist the gender pay gap issue within the creative team, it would rid the team of two creative directors who were because of their sex seen as resistant to change; also female creative directors were exactly what [the company] were seeking.’
A woman in a similar position would not have faced the same backlash, the judge added.
Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner are in line to receive compensation from Wunderman Thompson after winning claims of sex discrimination, victimisation, harassment and unfair dismissal.
They lost claims of age discrimination, race discrimination, and sexual orientation discrimination after the judge ruled they had no impact on their dismissal.
Mr Bayfield, who made the famous Blackcurrant Tango ‘St George’ ad, and Mr Jenner worked at the firm from January 2016 to their dismissal in November 2018.
Mr Bayfield today said since his dismissal he has struggled to find work and Mr Jenner has left advertising, adding that they have been perceived as ‘whistle-blowers’ in the industry.
The married father, now 54, of Cricklewood in London, said: ‘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.
‘The gender pay gap was mortifying for the company – because it was an awful gap – and their approach was to go gung-ho on who they perceived to be the enemy. They rigged up a kangaroo court and fired us.’
Three other male creatives who were sacked settled out of court, Mr Bayfield said.