Honeywell International faces a suit from a former vice president who said she was hired to increase diversity at the executive level but contends she was hired as window dressing.
Natasha Chandler brought claims for fraud, breach of contract and for discrimination under state and federal law, and asserts a whistleblower claim against the company, where she worked from July 2015 to December 2016 as vice president for human resources at a division of the company. She claims Honeywell solicited her from her former job at Merck & Co. in order to implement diversity strategies. But after starting on the job, she said she came to question the sincerity of the company’s commitment to remedy past discrimination, and the company began to retaliate against her for carrying out her duties, according to the suit.
As Chandler began to express her opinions and carry out her duties, Honeywell retaliated by questioning her character, integrity and honesty, falsely suggesting she was not qualified, the suit claims. The suit was filed in state Superior Court in Essex County on July 17 and removed to federal court on Wednesday.
In the state court complaint, Chandler said Honeywell recognized it was open to allegations of workplace discrimination that would be deemed intolerable by its workforce, shareholders, and “particularly but not limited to acquisition branches of the United States government.” The company hired her, according to the complaint, “so it at least on a temporary basis could use Chandler’s tenure as a false shield to deflect” inquiries from private- and public-sector actors into Honeywell’s efforts to end workplace discrimination.
Although the complaint makes no mention of it, in the spring of 2015, shortly before Chandler was hired, Honeywell, based in Morris Plains, began negotiating to acquire United Technologies Corp. That deal was called off in March 2016.
The suit says she was terminated due to her gender and in retaliation for challenging Honeywell’s discriminatory employment, retention and promotion practices in its executive ranks. The company took adverse employment actions that were pretextual and advanced to mask the company’s retaliatory intent, the suit claims. She brings discrimination claims under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and under 42 U.S.C. §§1981 and 1983.
Her attorney, Dennis Durkin Sr. of Roseland, was traveling and not available for comment, his office said. Honeywell’s lawyer, Mark Diana of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart in Morristown, did not return a call about the case.
Honeywell spokesman Rob Ferris issued a statement on behalf of the company, which said: “We believe that Ms. Chandler’s case is without merit and Honeywell will defend our position vigorously.”
Ferris did not respond to a reporter’s question about links between Chandler’s employment and government regulators.