Former J&J VP sues pharma giant for discimination and harassment, accuses top execs — including Alex Gorsky — of retaliating against her
A former J&J exec has filed a lawsuit against the pharma giant for gender discrimination, unequal pay and retaliation leading to what she alleges is an abrupt and wrongful termination to her 25-year career at the company.
Gina Bilotti — who exited J&J in May after climbing the ranks through supply chain, commercial, and R&D to vice president roles — named and accused three top execs of harassing, “ostracizing and marginalizing” her. And when she tried to raise the issue, the highest levels of management allegedly “participated in and condoned the retaliation” against her.
Over two years of complaining within the company, Bilotti claimed the “retaliatory abuse and betrayal” has left her ill both physically and emotionally.
Defendant J&J and its CEO Alex Gorsky publicly claim to promote diversity and inclusion. J&J consistently tells its employees that it is committed to a harassment and retaliation-free workplace and encourages employees to feel safe to raise their concerns. These words are belied by J&J’s deeds. Just as J&J has lied for decades about the asbestos in its baby powder, which it promoted to women as a feminine hygiene product knowing that it caused ovarian cancer, J&J’s actual employment practices are the opposite of its claims of valuing, respecting, and listening to women and minority employees. These lies have impacted all female employees of J&J.
The accusations of discrimination centered around three men. Bilotti alleged that Janssen CFO Darren Snellgrove ignored her requests for meetings, talked to her in demeaning ways (telling her to “shut up”) and, when she protested a misrepresentation of her performance, threatened to cut her budget.
She accused Mathai Mammen, global head of R&D, of manipulating and exploiting their friendship as he was settling into the job, pressuring her into giving him access to her personal Facebook page, and then changing his attitude toward her upon learning that she identifies as gay.
Together with Troy Sarich — who at the time was head of strategy under Mammen — Snellgrove and Mammen allegedly excluded Bilotti from important conversations, even sidelining her and mocking her when she was present.
After bringing the issues up to HR and subsequently receiving the “worst mid-year performance review” in 2018, Bilotti appealed to both J&J CSO Paul Stoffels and Gorsky that October in an attempt to salvage her career, according to the lawsuit. Despite alleged acknowledgment of a “big, big problem” and promises to follow up, though, they didn’t give her the protection she sought. Rather, as soon as she met with them, she was allegedly removed from high-level roles, subjected to an expenses audit and forced into a $90,000 pay cut.
Immediately after seeking help from CEO Gorsky, Plaintiff experienced an escalation in the dismantling of her responsibilities and, in the end, her career. Gorsky clearly participated in increasing the retaliation against Plaintiff for her complaints about discrimination, harassment and retaliation against her personally – and against women, gays and minorities in general.
In response to an inquiry, J&J said in a statement: “We take any claims about employee conduct seriously. We have investigated and can confirm that the allegations of discrimination and retaliation have no merit.”
The company, however, declined to provide details on the nature and timing of the investigation.
Bilotti noted in her lawsuit, filed in the state court of New Jersey, that she was informed by J&J in May 2019 that her accusations were not “found credible.” On that same day, she was allegedly told by the legal counsel her financial audit “did not look good” and advised to sign off on an exit arrangement in order to keep her pension and medical benefits — which to her amounted to a threat.
Offered a project-based role in August with a contract that would end in February 2020 and under stress, Bilotti took a disability leave in November. She returned this May — and was then terminated.