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Passantino v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products, Inc – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In Passantino v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products, Inc., 212 F.3d 493 (9th Cir. 2001). Ms. Passantino worked in Washington state, and her employer's office was located in New Jersey. Id. at. 499-501.

After Ms. Passantino complained to her superiors about disparaging comments made by her male co-workers, her employer passed her over for several job promotions. Id. at 502-03.

The employer then offered Ms. Passantino positions that she considered to be demotions. Id.

Ms. Passantino filed a Title VII suit in Washington, complaining about the aforementioned actions of her employer. Id. at 503.

The defendant moved for a change of venue to New Jersey, which was denied. Id. at 504.

On appeal, the employer contended that venue was improper in Washington because the employer made the decisions not to promote the plaintiff in New Jersey; therefore, according to the defendant, venue was proper only in New Jersey. Id.

The plaintiff countered by asserting that the "unlawful action occurs where its effects are felt." Id.

The Passantino court said:

The statute itself and analogous case law suggest that venue should be found where the effect of the unlawful employment practice is felt: where the plaintiff works and the decision to engage in that practice is implemented.

Defendant, however, would have us reject such a rule, at least for cases involving failure to promote, in favor of one that would allow venue only where the decision to commit the unlawful employment practice is made. We find this theory unpersuasive for several reasons. First, defendant's theory would require us to draw a distinction between promotional claims and other types of Title VII claims - which allow venue where the plaintiff is employed. Had plaintiff been wrongfully discharged or subjected to a hostile work environment, she could have sued in the district where she worked. Nothing in the text or history of the statute's venue provision suggests that a different rule should apply in failure-to-promote cases. Plaintiffs unlawfully denied a promotion, like those discharged, feel the effects of their injury where they actually work.

Defendant suggests that the rule advanced by Passantino would leave corporations which employ people in far- away home offices vulnerable to suit in distant fora, a problem which it warns will increase in the internet age. Defendant is concerned that "potential plaintiffs could evaluate their preferred locations for bringing a lawsuit and simply relocate their home offices within that jurisdiction." This forum shopping scenario seems fanciful;. . . . It is of more concern that national companies with distant offices might try to force plaintiffs to litigate far away from their homes, as defendant seeks to do here.

Thus, we hold that venue is proper in both the forum where the employment decision is made and the forum in which that decision is implemented or its effects are felt. (Id. at 505-06.)