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Richards v. Johnson & Johnson

June 3, 2009

MICHAEL RICHARDS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHNSON & JOHNSON, INC.; JOHNSON & JOHNSON CONSUMER PRODUCTS COMPANIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Katharine S. Hayden, U.S.D.J.

OPINION

I.INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Michael Richards initiated this action against his employer, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Companies ("CPC"), as well as CPC‟s parent company, Johnson & Johnson, Inc. ("J&J") (collectively, "defendants"), alleging discrimination and retaliation based on Richards‟s race and age. He asserts causes of action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. ("ADEA"), and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1, et seq. ("NJLAD").*fn1 Defendants now move for summary judgment.

II.JURISDICTION

The Court has federal question jurisdiction over the Title VII and ADEA claims, see 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1333; 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3); 29 U.S.C. § 626(c)(1), and pendent jurisdiction over the NJLAD claims, see 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), as defendants are located in this district and all alleged discriminatory conduct occurred here.

III.STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to Richards, the non-moving party, and must accordingly draw all inferences in his favor. See Gray v. York Newspapers, 957 F.2d 1070, 1080 (3d Cir. 1992). The Court may not grant defendants‟ motion if there is evidence sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for Richards, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986), or if the factual dispute is one "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law . . . ." Id. Defendants‟ burden, however, "may be discharged by "showing‟ . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party‟s case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). In opposing the motion, Richards "may not rest upon mere allegations or denials of the . . . pleading"; instead, he must, "by affidavits or as otherwise provided in [Rule 56]," set forth "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 n.11 (1986).

IV. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Richards is a 48-year old Asian male and has been employed by CPC as a Senior Financial Analyst since July 24, 2000. Plaintiff‟s Statement of Material Facts ("Pl. Facts") ¶¶ 5, 10. He holds an undergraduate accounting degree from the University of Maryland, an MBA in finance from Cornell University, and is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant. Affidavit of Alan H. Schorr ("Schorr Aff.") Exh. B. He alleges that approximately three months into his employment, CPC began subjecting him to a pattern of isolation and exclusion, after which Richards complained to his supervisor. Pl. Facts ¶¶ 15-16. Richards asserts that he repeatedly and unsuccessfully sought relief from this treatment by complaining to various personnel within CPC and J&J, including a J&J diversity compliance officer. Id. ¶ 18; Schorr Aff. Exh. C.

Much of Richards‟s disparate treatment claims center on the ratings system that defendants use for assessing their employees‟ past performance and future potential. Defendants use a protocol known as the "Standards of Leadership" when evaluating their employees. This model consists of six factors: Credo values, customer/marketplace focus, innovation, interdependent partnering, masters complexity, and organization/people development. Schorr Aff. Exh. E. Combining an employee‟s evaluation on each of these factors, the Standards of Leadership model rates potential on a 1-5 scale,*fn2 with 5 representing maximum potential:

5 - Individuals who are growth candidates with very high potential for key Senior Management Positions- business/technical unit leader, corporate functional leader and above contingent upon successful completion of their development plans.

4 - Individuals who can move up more than one significant organizational level contingent upon successful completion of their development plans.

3 - Individuals who can move up one significant organizational level contingent upon successful completion of their development plans.

2 - Individuals who are able to accept other related/expanded responsibilities at the same or similar organizational level.

1 - Individuals who are limited in potential and have difficulty at the current organizational level.

Pl. Br. at 13; Pl. Facts ¶ 21; Schorr Aff. Exh. F (underline in original).

For each review Richards received during the years 2000 to 2005, he received a potential rating of "2." He alleges that his review for 2000 was significantly delayed (while his colleagues received timely reviews), and only upon "going up the ladder for three months [did he] finally exert[] enough pressure to get his evaluation" in June 2001. Pl. Facts ¶ 22. Defendants assert that the delay was not based on any discriminatory treatment, but merely upon the workload of the supervisor responsible for giving the review. Defendants‟ Statement of Material Facts ("Def. Facts") ¶ 20.

Richards asserts that each year, despite having received an adequate performance rating and "high[]" ratings and critiques from his business partners within the various reviews, see Pl. Facts ¶¶ 24, 28, 33, 35, 37 (and exhibits cited therein), he received a "2" potential rating. In essence, he asserts that defendants discriminated and retaliated against him by assigning him these sub-par ratings, which effectively branded him as unpromotable within CPC and un-hirable throughout the J&J family. As evidence of the unduly low potential ratings which he alleges, Richards cites a 2002 "Standards of Leadership Award" that he received for taking on added responsibility during a transitional period. Pl. Br. at 15; Schorr Aff. Exh. I. The award form states in bold typeface at the bottom, "Timely communication of the award is critical!" Schorr Aff. Exh. I. Richards, however, did not learn that he had received the award for three months, see id. Exh. A at 103:20-25, nor did he receive the plaque normally awarded to winners of the award, see id. at 102:12-13. Richards also complains that while he received $1,250 in additional compensation for winning the award, the award form states that he should have received 2.5%-10% of his annual compensation, which would have equated to $1978.21-$7,913.50. Pl. Br. at 16; Schorr Aff. Exh. I.

During this time, Richards was also applying for other positions within the J&J family (particularly within the J&J Treasury Department). He did not receive an offer of employment for any of these applications. (While he applied for approximately 72 positions, he focuses his claims of discrimination on 23 of them. See Pl. Br. at 21; Schorr Aff. Exh. N). He alleges that this result was not due to his qualifications, but as part of a discriminatory pattern against Asian and older workers generally, as well as a retaliatory mission against him specifically. Richards proffers additional statistical data regarding the 22 J&J positions which were filled (one position was never ...


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