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Employee loses discrimination case, wins $3 million + for retaliation 04-05-00
-- by Ann Kiernan

Did you know that an employer can be found liable for retaliating against an employee who raises a discrimination issue, even if there was no underlying discrimination? One employer just got a multi-million dollar lesson on the subject.

Jennifer Passantino worked for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products, Inc. (CPI) in for 18 years, rising through the ranks to become one of CPIs most successful salespeople and managers. Despite that, she was passed over for several promotions.

Ms. Passantino filed a formal complaint of sex discrimination. After that, her job duties were reduced, her accounts were transferred, she was excluded from meetings, her performance objectives were changed, and her job title was altered. She was offered--and refused--three demotions, and was told that her decision not to accept them meant that she was no longer promotable.

At trial, the jury found that CPI had not originally discriminated against Ms. Passantino in failing to promote her, but it had retaliated against her for her complaint. The jury awarded her $100,000 in back pay, $2,000,000 in front pay, $1,000,000 for emotional distress, and $8,600,000 in punitive damages. Oh yes, she was awarded $580,000 in attorneys fees, too.

On appeal, the entire award except the punitive damages was affirmed, and the case was sent back for a new trial on that issue.

To avoid retaliation claims, always treat complainants with respect, even if their concerns turn out to be exaggerated or untrue. Dont allow co-workers to retaliate against the complainant either.

Passantino v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products, Inc.
2000 U. S. App. LEXIS 4003 (9th Cir. 2000).
Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.
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