Hyundai Agency Innocean Resolves Sexual Harassment Suit and Parts With CCO Eric Springer

The lawsuit also alleged wrongful termination

Springer first joined the agency in 2016. Innocean
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Hyundai’s ad agency, Innocean, and chief creative officer Eric Springer have parted ways, several months after former content director Victoria Guenier sued the company and the CCO, alleging sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination.

A spokesperson confirmed that Springer is no longer with the agency as of today.

“Innocean USA and Eric Springer jointly announce that Eric has decided to resign as its chief creative officer to pursue other opportunities,” read a statement from the representative. “Innocean USA wishes Mr. Springer well on future projects.”

CEO Steve Jun sent an email to all staff announcing the news, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter. Chief operating officer Tim Blett then reportedly read the note to employees and stated that all related legal matters had been resolved.

Two sources also told Adweek that the parties involved in the case agreed to a monetary settlement several weeks ago. The agency spokesperson stated that Innocean would have no further comment on the matter.

When Adweek initially contacted Innocean representatives regarding the settlement earlier this month, they wrote that the agency “does not comment on active litigation.”

“I resigned after all allegations in this case were dismissed by Victoria … and I didn’t pay her a penny,” said Springer in a statement several hours after this story went live. “I’m looking forward to getting back to working directly with clients and consulting. That’s what I love to do, and that’s what I can’t wait to do again.”

Clingo Law Group and Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, which represented Guenier and Innocean in the case, respectively, have not responded to multiple requests for comment.

The suit, officially filed in January in Orange County, Calif., claimed that Guenier had suffered from Springer’s “bullying and harassing style” of management since joining the agency in April 2016. The two had previously worked together at Deutsch, where she was a director of production and he was a creative director.

The suit claimed Springer “made plaintiff and other female employees feel physically threatened,” created “a hostile work environment” by using sexually suggestive or misogynistic language and initiated unwanted physical contact with Guenier. It also alleged that she filed multiple complaints with the agency’s COO and head of HR before being pushed out of her job in April 2017.

Innocean’s law firm, in turn, countered the filing by stating that Guenier had “unclean hands with respect to the events upon which the complaint … [is] based.” It did not cite specific evidence to back up these claims. The counterargument also stated that Guenier had failed to exhaust all options available to her under company policy, California state law and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The agency placed Springer on leave less than one week after news of the suit broke, announcing that it had launched an internal investigation and both hired an external HR advisor and brought on advocacy group The 3 Percent Conference to “develop additional solutions as warranted.”

The 3 Percent Conference founder and CEO Kat Gordon declined to comment.

In April, Springer defended himself in a public Facebook post, writing, “These accusations are false.” He went on to state that he and Guenier had “nothing but a positive, productive, professional relationship” and shared screenshots of notes and text messages exchanged between the two.

Springer presented one specific email in which Guenier appeared to discuss her departure from Innocean as evidence that she had not been forced out of her job, writing, “This obviously negates the possibility of a ‘wrongful termination,’ since she resigned.”

While he did not address all claims made in the suit, he did dispute the assertion that he had “slapped Victoria on her butt.”

“We cannot tolerate a culture of abuse,” Springer wrote. “But we also cannot tolerate a culture in which someone’s career and reputation can be ruined through the mere act of being wrongfully accused.”

The post has since been deleted or made private.

This story has been updated to include Springer’s statement.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
Publish date: July 18, 2018 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT