Advertising agency BBH India (part of Publicis Groupe) is investigating allegations of workplace sexual harassment against its chief creative officer and managing partner Russell Barrett. The allegations against Barrett were raised by an ex-employee of the agency in a post on Twitter on Monday this week. It was posted on the social media platform by writer and journalist Sandhya Menon, through her personal Twitter handle. Menon has been at the fore of the #MeToo movement, with her Twitter posts being a source of major exposés.
However, Menon later took down her post as the lady who made the accusations had "been identified" and felt she had "reason to believe she's not safe".
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Menon later clarified this in a follow-up post stating that the victim would "pursue this again" when "she feels ready to fight".
In response to afaqs!' query about the matter, a member of BBH India's media relations team responded with a statement (sent over email): "We have taken note of the incident reported on Twitter. Since the allegations are serious, we are looking into the matter on priority. We would like to reiterate that BBH India has a zero-tolerance policy towards any type of workplace misconduct and in case we find any evidence to substantiate the allegations, we will take necessary action as per company policy."
Barrett has worked in advertising for over two decades and joined BBH India in 2010 as brand partner.
Barrett, in his defense, has this to say; it's a detailed note addressed to Menon - an open letter. He has tweeted it. It reads:
I have been a huge supporter of the MeToo movement from its inception, given my respect for women in general, and more specifically, at the workplace - something I am confident all my colleagues, peers and friends who have worked with me over my 22+ year career will vouch for.
Given this, yesterday's tweet falsely implicating me in a fictitious and anonymous MeToo complaint shocked and saddened me to say the least. While this is a much required movement for genuinely aggrieved women, I take grave offence to a malicious rant quoting my name, as it not only causes irreparable and irreversible damage to my goodwill and reputation, but also causes pain to my family whom I hold very dear to me.
Sandhya, while freedom of speech is a given right to the Press, is it not also your corollary responsibility to check facts before you mindlessly forward something on social media which can harm another individual, much less a professional who has always strived to ensure that women are given their due respect and rightful position in their careers?
Recently the Indian judiciary has held that 'Forwarding a message is equal to accepting the message and endorsing the message.' In light of that, did you pause to ask yourself the following questions (leave alone doing some due diligence on it) before you posted the message. Where did the incident occur? When and under what exact circumstances did it occur? Who are the so called 'friends' she spoke to about the incident (which in no way presupposes that it ever happened) at the time? Can they corroborate that she did actually speak to them at the time she claims she did?
If not, then isn't posting this message amount to irresponsible journalism on your part? What if you were the person whose reputation was so callously smeared? Would you stand by and do nothing if it was you being wrongly accused?
The fact that you have withdrawn your damaging tweet within hours of its first appearance, in no way lessens or reverses the harm inflicted by it. The least you can do is post an apology to help repair the damage you have caused me personally and professionally. Any further uncorroborated and slanderous posts about me will attract legal action. This is not a threat but an intimation to you of what I will be forced to do to protect my family and myself from wild and baseless accusations like this.
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