On appeal from the Superior Court, Law Division, Somerset County.
Furman, Brody and Long. The opinion of the court was delivered by Long, J.A.D.
Plaintiffs Mary Ann Grigoletti and Phyllis Impellizeri are former employees of defendant Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp. (Ortho), a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson, Inc. Defendants Hugh Connor and David Williams supervised Grigoletti and Impellizeri at Ortho.
In April 1985, plaintiffs filed separate complaints against defendants. In her complaint, Grigoletti alleged that male employees earned higher salaries than she did for the same work in violation of the Law Against Discrimination (N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq.); that Connor and Williams sexually harassed her and created a hostile work environment contrary to the Law Against Discrimination; that Ortho's refusal to fairly compensate her and to remedy sexual harassment were a breach of an employment contract embodied in the personnel manuals distributed to employees; that Ortho's refusal to pay her for overtime was a violation of an employment contract, and that defendants' conduct amounted to a constructive discharge.
Impellizeri's complaint alleged that the lack of a reasonable merit increase violated an employment contract embodied in personnel manuals distributed to employees; that defendants took retaliatory action against her in violation of the Law Against Discrimination because she objected to the harassment of her co-worker, Grigoletti; that retaliatory action in the nature of a poor performance rating was a breach of the employment contract between the parties, and that she was
subjected to age discrimination contrary to the Law Against Discrimination.
Defendants answered, denying the allegations in both complaints. The cases were consolidated. Defendants then moved for summary judgment on all issues. Impellizeri filed a cross motion to amend the complaint to include an allegation of sexual discrimination in wages. Plaintiffs filed cross motions for summary judgment as to the status of Ortho's personnel manual and for discovery. The judge denied defendants' motion for summary judgment as to Grigoletti but granted it as to Impellizeri's allegation of age discrimination; denied summary judgment as to Impellizeri's claims of retaliatory treatment; dismissed both plaintiffs' wrongful discharge claims as precluded by their workplace discrimination claims under the Law Against Discrimination; refused to allow Impellizeri to file an amended complaint, and dismissed both plaintiffs' claims of breach of contract, ruling that plaintiffs' claim that Ortho's personnel manual constituted an employment contract could succeed only by an improper retroactive application of Woolley v. Hoffmann-La Roche, 99 N.J. 284, mod. 101 N.J. 10 (1985). The remaining claims were adjudicated after a bench trial before a different trial judge who rejected them, entering judgment for defendants.
Only two contentions are advanced on this appeal. The first is that the pretrial dismissal of plaintiffs' claim that the Ortho personnel manual constituted an employment contract was error. The second is that the trial judge incorrectly denied plaintiffs relief under the Law Against Discrimination for sexual discrimination in pay. (This contention includes Impellizeri's challenge to the denial of her motion to amend her complaint to assert discrimination in compensation.) We agree with plaintiffs' arguments on these issues and reverse.
The facts in the case relevant to these appellate issues are essentially as follows: In 1983, Ortho, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, which is a company involved in manufacturing,
packaging and distributing pharmaceuticals, bought a computer system, called Manufacturing Resource Planning Program (MRP). Thereafter, it formed the MRP project which was a group of individuals, including Grigoletti and Impellizeri, who were responsible for actually implementing the program for Ortho use.
Grigoletti had begun working for another subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson in August 1976 as a clerk at the credit union for a salary of about $8,000 a year. Later, she transferred to Ortho and was promoted to "order coordinator" in the purchasing department, a level seven position.*fn1 She continued to work in purchasing and was promoted several times, finally to MRP project manager in August 1983. Impellizeri began working for Johnson & Johnson in 1967 and transferred to Ortho in August 1972 as an executive secretary. Over the years she served in numerous capacities through regular promotions and finally became an MRP project manager in August 1983.
Initially, the MRP consisted of four project managers, plaintiffs, Ed Struzick and Alexis Jordan. Later, Michael Esposito was hired. Each project manager was hired for his or her expertise or experience in a particular area of the company and each was assigned to implement a "module" or separate software package. A grade level was not assigned to the position of project manager. Instead, the project managers brought their last grade level with them. Thus, it was considered a "lateral" move. Grigoletti's last position was a grade level 13 which she continued as MRP project manager. Impellizeri's last position was a grade level 15 which also continued.
The following salaries and work history of the MRP managers is uncontroverted:
NAME LEVEL HIRED EDUCATION SALARY
Alexis Jordan 15 11/81 MBA 1977 $47,200
Michael Esposito 14 11/83 HS ...