Jennifer Passantino

Jennifer L. Passantino

EEO Officer at Consumer Products Inc.

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Consumer Products Inc.

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JENNIFER L. PASSANTINO, and No. 97-36191
PASSANTINO, and the marital plaintiff, Jennifer Passantino (hereinafter Passantino), after a jury awarded her substantial damages. against Passantino, that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting a taped interview into evidence, that the district court did not err in its jury instructions, and that the district court acted within its discretion in allocating all front pay, backpay, and compensatory damages to Passantino's state law claims while allocating the punitive damages to Passantino's Title VII claim. Jennifer Passantino began working for Johnson & Johnson Passantino started with CPI in 1979 as a Health Care 1987. In 1988, with CPI's permission, Passantino relocated to Passantino maintained a home office, as CPI requested. (Most sales persons within CPI had home offices.) Passantino meeting with her supervisor, Lew Williams, stated that "Jennifer demonstrates very strong selling skills, organizational ability, and good business judgment. She has developed the sales and promotional plan for Key Accounts, generating 12 million dollars in Johnson & Johnson annual volume. It added that she was "well As the Western regional manager, Passantino was rated the employee with the greatest promotional potential in her division. positive reviews, Passantino began to suspect that, because of her sex, she had been passed over for several promotions for which she was qualified. Several events gave her reason to suspect discrimination. First, Williams, her supervisor, exhibited sexist behavior. He referred to women buyers as "PMS," "menstrual," and "dragon lady. He also stated that most women probably just wanted to stay home. This sexism was not limited to Williams. Passantino also testified that two co-workers, Williams told Passantino that she should consider looking outside First, Passantino complained about the conduct of Passantino and told her that it was her problem to get along with her co-workers. Following the complaints by Passantino and Upshaw, the offensive behavior of all three men increased both in degree and frequency. Although Passantino's 1993 performance report was with peers."1 From this point on, Passantino felt she was slighted when trying to speak, and was the subject of derision generally -- co-workers rolled their eyes at her suggestions, and there were side-bar conversations among other managers that excluded her. In short, after Passantino complained, she was no longer taken seriously.2 Johnson's reorganization, Passantino expressed interest in a that year, Passantino learned about three newly-created positions (National Commissary Manager, Director of Trade Marketing, and between them and Passantino, he did not give them a reduced In November 1994, Passantino contacted CPI's EEO officer and was warned several times that if she made a complaint, she would have to "live with the burden of coming forward" because the decision to complain "could have many ramifications. In spite of these warnings, Passantino formally complained to Doug Soo Hoo analysis in order to see if there was any truth to Passantino's suspicion that she was being paid less than similarly-situated male workers. Passantino testified that Soo Hoo never provided In December, 1994, Passantino decided to lodge a formal complaint. Passantino recounted her complaints. Williams, her supervisor, responded that the military market was an "old boy network" in which it was hard for women to be successful. He also asked Passantino directly if she thought he was a sexist. A second meeting was held in February, also in New Jersey. First, Williams and Hogan conducted Passantino's 1995 performance Then, Hogan told Passantino that his Although Passantino never saw this analysis, a salary analysis document was placed in her personnel file. This document falsely reported that Kenan -- one of Passantino's Passantino asserts that these ratings were fabricated in order to Passantino and Upshaw testified that they understood this to be a Passantino remained unsatisfied with CPI's response to her Thereafter Passantino testified that she experienced a range of retaliatory acts by CPI, making it nearly impossible for her to perform her job effectively. Passantino also testified that other actions were taken which undermined her performance. She stated that Williams became distant and communicated less with her, that she received product and sales information late, and that she lost out on bonuses (including an award trip) and sales opportunities as a result. Finally, Passantino stated that Williams made comments demeaning her participation in the policy groups that she had joined, even though she had joined them upon his suggestion, in order to enhance her advancement within the military division. Passantino testified, and provided documentary corroboration to prove, that prior to her complaints she was consistently regarded as well-qualified for promotion into upper management. After her complaints, and particularly after her public EEOC complaint, however, it was a different story. Passantino was obvious sign that, as Passantino put it, she was "losing ground." For some unexplained reason, Williams was instructed to send his evaluations of Passantino and Upshaw to Hogan, the Vice CPI also retaliated against Passantino by offering her demotions, without always making clear that the jobs offered were below her current level. After initiating her complaints, Passantino received three offers of district manager positions. She rejected these jobs as demotions. Then, in August 1995, she possibility of layoffs in the immediate future, Passantino accepted on the condition that CPI guarantee her one year of employment, absent cause for termination, as insurance against the inherently risky undertaking. CPI refused. In March 1996, Passantino rejected a district manager position in Los Angeles Passantino was then offered a demotion to a position as a sales administration manager, with a much lower salary range. In this position, she would have lost her company car, had no opportunity for commissions, and would have had to live in a more expensive area. Passantino accepted the position, however, on the condition that she receive a year of guaranteed employment. Again rejecting her offered to Passantino because it was one of the jobs involved in her litigation. Finally, she rejected another position which was a step back with no potential for salary growth. During the same period, on a different occasion, when Passantino expressed interest in a new military marketing position, Williams told her she should not be interested in that position because it paid less, even though in fact that position paid $20,000 more than the position she held at the time. Ultimately, Hogan told Passantino that because she refused to accept these district manager positions (which were demotions), she would not be considered for higher positions. He also told her that her decision not to accept the demotions meant that she could be deemed no longer promotable. After August 1996, Passantino did not receive any further offers. Throughout this period, which followed her complaints, CPI executives were repeatedly vague about whether positions offered 11 to Passantino were promotions, demotions, or lateral transfers. 4: Passantino never knew if she was considering a job that would improve her prospects or effectively end her he called them laterals. Others in the corporation told her that these jobs would be demotions. The same dissembling and her inquiries career's advancement opportunities. Passantino testified that, as a result of this stressful series of events, she constantly worried, cried, and felt trapped and upset. She felt she was forced to spend less time with her family because she

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Jennifer Passantino worked for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products, Inc. (CPI) in for 18 years, rising through the ranks to become one of CPIÕs 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 attorneysÕ 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.

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In Passantino, a mid-level female sales manager, Jennifer Passantino, claimed she had been retaliated against because she had complained of sex discrimination in promotions.Passantino worked for Johnson Consumer Products for approximately 20 years, principally in the "military" division.This division was characterized by one of Johnson's own executives as an "old boy network."Nonetheless, Passantino was on a fast track career, including receiving excellent performance evaluations and promotions to national account manager.Passantino was unable, however, to achieve promotions to the "senior manager" level and believed this was because of sex discrimination.Among other things, her supervisor and two co-workers exhibited sexist behavior around Passantino and another female manager, e.g., calling women buyers "PMS," "menstrual" and "dragon ladies."More important, the supervisor told Passantino she should look for work elsewhere because he did not believe his boss or the company were committed to promoting women.Passantino complained first informally, then formally through a complaint to Johnson's EEO officer.In making this complaint, the EEO officer warned that she would have to "live with the burden of coming forward" because the decision to complain "could have many ramifications."Post-complaint, Passantino established:· The Vice President of Sales supported Passantino's supervisor and threatened her with either shaping up or being "off the team;"· Management excluded Passantino from numerous planning and other meetings;· Management removed some of Passantino's job duties and accounts;· Passantino was offered only demotions and told she had to accept those demotions to remain eligible for promotions;· When Passantino refused those demotions, she was removed from consideration for any promotions.The jury concluded all of the above actions were taken because of retaliation and awarded Passantino $100,000 in back pay, $2,000,000 in front pay, and $1,000,000 in compensatory damages for her emotional distress.The judge then granted her $580,000 in attorney's fees.Other than remanding a separate punitive damages award, the appeals court affirmed this verdict in total.The court upheld the $2,100,000 award for lost wages on the theory Passantino lost the wage increases she would have received had she been promoted to a senior manager position.The court also concluded the jury's $1,000,000 compensatory damage award was sufficiently supported by Passantino and her family's testimony regarding the anxiety, rashes, stomach problems, headaches and other symptoms that she claimed she suffered because of the retaliation.Finally the court approved the award of $580,000 in attorney's fees based on Passantino acquiring a multi-million dollar verdict.Passantino illustrates the risks involved in handling complaints of discrimination or harassment.As recently detailed in McCalla Thompson's April 2000 "Serious Problems-Practical Solutions" Seminar, an employer should undertake the following actions to limit exposure to post-complaint retaliation claims:1. Promulgate to all employees (with signed receipts) comprehensive anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies with proper complaint procedures;2. Promptly investigate and undertake any needed remedial action to address the complaint;

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