Fired Johnson & Johnson Exec Claims 'Culture Of Discrimination'

The health care giant Johnson & Johnson is a regular fixture on best place to work lists, as well as Diversity Inc.'s Top Companies for Diversity. But one former executive has filed an explosive lawsuit, claiming she was denied a promotion because she is African-American, and then fired for speaking out against "a corporate culture of discrimination."

Francine Parham was a vice president of human resources at Johnson & Johnson (its board of directors pictured above), the company behind everything from Band-Aids to Tylenol, Nicorette gum to Neutrogena. According to her lawsuit, Parham -- hired in 2004 and promoted twice --was always bothered by the lack of minorities in the upper ranks of the company. The suit, filed June 21, said:

"During plaintiff's employment with defendant, as part of her HR duties she had numerous conversations with a number of minority employees, who told plaintiff they were seeking other employment because defendant's corporate culture of discrimination had 'dead-ended' their careers."

Many, the suit states, left the company as a result, creating what her colleagues called the "leaky bucket syndrome."

More: African American Exec Accuses Fox Sports Of Race Discrimination

Parham then details in the lawsuit how she had a taste of this herself, when her supervisor told her in January 2011 that he envisioned a promotion for her in the next 12 months. That promotion never materialized, she claims; instead, her position was eliminated, she was told she wasn't qualified for a higher position, despite stellar performance reviews. She further alleges that white men and women who were less qualified were promoted to positions at her level, while she was shafted into a lower role, before being fired altogether.

She believes this is because she is black, and pointed out the lack of diversity at the top. "Defendant's upper management refused to take seriously its obligation to effectively remediate this corporate culture of race discrimination," the suit states.The lawsuit seeks reinstatement of Parham's job, backpay, compensation for emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorney's fees.

In an emailed statement, Johnson & Johnson responded: "We have a deeply established commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace and deny the allegations in this case."

More: Wet Seal Pays Out $7.5 Million In Horrendous Race Bias Suit

Sure enough, the Brunswick, N.J.-based company has a host of internal minority groups and minority recruitment outreach efforts. It is a strategic partner of the Minority Business RoundTable and sponsors scholarships for minority students. In a report earlier this year, Calvert Investments rated Johnson & Johnson's diversity an 85 out of 100. At the same time, all five of the highest-paid executives at Johnson& Johnson are white, four of them white men. Ten of its 12 directors are also white, and no women of color sit on the board.

This also isn't the first time the maker of everything in your medicine cabinet has been such accused. In 2001, two employees, one black and one Hispanic, filed a class action lawsuit accusing Johnson & Johnson of paying lower salaries and denying promotions to people of color, in a systemic pattern of discrimination that came from the very top. Much wrestling followed over whether the thousands of minority employees at the company were similarly enough situated to constitute a class, and it was only in 2011 – a decade after the suit was filed – that the case was finally dismissed.

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I'm a white female...I've lived and worked in Northern California my entire life. My mother stayed home to raise three children and my father worked hard in the construction field. When it came for my higher education, I needed assistance. There just wasn't enough money to send me to a good 4 year university. My 4.3 GPA, all my extra curricular activities, just weren't enough to get me into the many colleges, in which I applied. A very close friend of mine, a female, who wasn't originally from this country, who maintained a lower GPA than I did, had two parents with amazing careers in the medical profession, who lived in a better neighborhood than we did, was accepted and given a full scholarship to one of my selected colleges.

I did manage to go to college...First, to the local 2 year community college and then transferred to USF, to finish out my education. Thousands of dollars in debt later, I'm still paying off my student loans. My girlfriend received her Master's degree two years ago. She currently works for a large chain coffee shop. She's indicated to me the professional world isn't her cup of tea - Her reasoning? The government would take too much of the hard earned cash she would create, in her studied field, as a Psychologist. I no longer drink coffee. Sometimes, I believe we are all discriminated against, one way or another.

July 30 2013 at 2:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No one is more discriminated againest than a white male......

July 16 2013 at 9:46 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

This is not news, welcome to American where race matters. Things are better than they used to be but, the sneaky racism is what has to uncovered next.


July 16 2013 at 9:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've heard this time and time again about J&J. As for the minority organizations that co-signed their diversity ratings, the Minority Business Report, with out looking into what was really going on, this is just par for the course. As long as they are getting those checks from those corporations they turn a deft ear to any conversation that goes against what they want to believe.

It's the same thing that happens in the banking industry relative to their CRA requirements, they would buy and or sponsor a few dinners for the few large and influential churches they need to court and all of a sudden they receive a perfect CRA score. No loans made in the communities they had CRA responsibility for, but they get a perfect CRA rating.

July 16 2013 at 8:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Recession must be almost over. People need a new way to make money and not work.

July 16 2013 at 6:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Lazy and inept people recognize deep pockets and have the ability to hire morally bankrupt lawyers...nothing hew about this story.

July 16 2013 at 5:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to godug's comment

And you've done so much with your life, not!

July 16 2013 at 8:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Funny that you know so much about the person filing the suit, I guess you was the supervisor?

July 28 2013 at 3:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Skye Hawk

I still think someone or some group is out there trying to destroy our country (and the media is helping them big time) by causing constant racial tension, featuring racially divided news articles, and hoping for an internal civil war. What country could benefit from the destruction of America from within? I can think of several.

July 16 2013 at 5:50 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Skye Hawk's comment

So what are you saying, put our collective heads in the sand and pretend that it's not going on who does that benefit?

July 16 2013 at 8:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

With actions such as these, it's no wonder why so many companies don't want to hire minorities. I've also heard of many instances and witnessed myself where minorities chat loudly and disrupt the flow of the "corporate culture". They come in late and continue to be employed while usually white workers are picking up their slack. Try that if you're white and you'd be written up or terminated. There's a double standard and many minorities use this to their advantage. Companies are reluctant to address this situation because of the litigation issue. Meanwhile, coworkers see this shoddy work ethic and resent minorities even more. Many are loud and lazy and white people are tired of it.

July 16 2013 at 5:06 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

As a J&J employee for the last 17 years, I have been very impressed and at times shocked by the amount of resources and effort spent by the J&J upper management to promote and integrate diversity throughout the world-wide culture.

The J&J culture is evaluated annually be a \"J&J Credo Survey\" and one area of this survey that is addressed relates to Diversity. The results of this survey are shared with employees and they have always reflected an overwhelming favorable rating in this area. These results are a reflection of all employees beliefs and feelings on how the company values diversity and conducts fair hiring and treatment pratices. J&J does encourage a culture that encourages and values diversity in every way possible (whether through nationality, background, sexual orientation, thoughts, beliefs, etc). Diversity strengthens a work force and makes a company stronger. J&J is a multinational company with operations in every country ... where would it be without a strong emphasis on diversity. The simple answer is \"It wouldn\'t be where it is today without it.\"

I have never experienced discrimination or unfair treatment in the J&J corporate environment nor do I know of anyone who has.

Unfortunately, the accusations (as mentioned in this article) are almost always an unfair attempt by a disgruntled employee to defame a company that has provided many opportunities to succeed both professionally and personally. Also, it always appears that \"one person\'s opinon\" (especially when reported in the Media, which stays on life support by agitating and creating unwarranted controversy for attention and ratings) becomes a \"Voice\" of all employees ... there will always be people who are not happy (for whatever reason) and once again, the sentiment of the employees clearly indicate otherwise.

I am so disappointed in this type of behaviour.


July 16 2013 at 2:56 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to grhilliard's comment

I have worked with the company for 22 years and I agree with "grhilliard" 100%.

July 16 2013 at 11:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jack Brown, I have a suggestion for you "suck it up butter cup". Playing the race card and taking a company to court because they fired you is pitiful. Affirmative action has given jobs to those far less qualified to do a job and cost many a hard working well-qualified white male their job. Maybe if you take an honest look at yourself and find your own shortcomings and fix them, stop looking for handouts, stop the violence, then maybe you can move into the 21st century. Here is something that you will find hard to believe - we don't owe you anything, you have to work for things now. What have you gone through and what is still happening to you? There lies the problem, you don't want to move into the present, you want to keep living in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Grow up, this is 2013, be a man and be accountable for yourself.

July 16 2013 at 2:49 PM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply

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