Nancy Erika Smith of Montclair, N.J.–based law firm Smith Mullin filed the lawsuit on behalf of Bilotti in the Superior Court of New Jersey in Essex County, according to a news release.
According to the complaint, Bilotti served as a J&J employee for more than 25 years and earned 17 promotions until eventually becoming a business-line VP, supervising more than 350 employees, managing a budget of $85 million and overseeing a pharmaceutical portfolio valued at $42 billion.
Bilotti, though, says her rise at the company ended after two male executives joined the company around 2017 and began a campaign of harassment against her.
One executive told her to “shut up” — and much worse, according to the complaint. The verbal lashings were so public that several of Bilotti’s coworkers filed HR complaints on her behalf, while Bilotti repeatedly asked for HR updates on the investigation, but to no avail. Nearly one year later, she was told the investigation was closed and on the same day was threatened with termination.
Bilotti started reporting to another executive who “manipulated” her by relying on her company knowledge to adjust to his new position while possibly “grooming” her for a sexual relationship, according to the lawsuit. The new executive then requested access to Bilotti’s personal Facebook page and learned she was gay, after which he allegedly minimized contact with her and excluded her from collaborations and meetings.
The complaint says that Bilotti met with J&J CEO Alex Gorsky on Oct. 9, 2018 to seek his help in response to the alleged harassment and retaliation, to which Gorsky allegedly said, “So what you’re telling me then is that we have unCredo like behaviors happening in Janssen R&D? That’s a big problem, Gina. A big, big problem.”
However, Bilotti says Gorsky did not follow up as promised and J&J immediately escalated its efforts to “torpedo” her career. Within three days of her meeting with the CEO, two departments were removed from her responsibilities, her membership on four major management committees was revoked, J&J initiated a “baseless” audit into the past five years of her expenses, dragging it on for five months, then cut her budget by another 10%.
“When new, all-male leadership came on board in 2017 and 2018, nearly every open position was filled with males,” Smith, her attorney, said in the news release. “And in defiance of the company Credo, Bilotti was paid less than six similarly positioned male executives despite her extensive and important job responsibilities.”
Smith added: “Johnson & Johnson portrays itself as a leader in diversity and inclusion, but those are empty words. Ms. Bilotti was able to succeed for 25 years in J&J’s white male corporate environment because she was extremely talented and respected. When new male bosses discriminated against her, J&J HR, and even the CEO, participated in retaliation against her which ultimately led to the end of her career. … J&J cares about money and power – not women.”
Johnson & Johnson did not respond to request for comment on the lawsuit. This story may be updated.