Six current and former Bayer employees have filed a lawsuit against the drugmaker and its US unit over charges they suffered gender discrimination, denial of equal pay and promotions, and retaliation. And they are seeking $100 million in damages and class-action status. They are represented by the same firm that filed suit against Novartis and resulted in a $152 million over similar charges (back story).
The lawsuit alleges a pattern discrimination in pay, promotions, and the treatment of pregnant women and mothers. Specifically, they charge Bayer pays women less than their male counterparts; deny promotions to better and higher paying jobs; limits employment opportunities to lower and less desirable job classifications, and exposes them to different treatment and a hostile work environment.
The lawsuit goes on to maintain that Bayer has either published or disseminated articles that suggest men are better suited to be managers than women; describing females as prone to “mood swings,” “indecision," and "backstabbing;" and concluding that “women with power are ‘loose canons’ who often feel threatened by colleagues,” according to the lawsuit (read it here).
The women - who occupy or occupied such jobs as associate director, deputy director and director positions in the Women’s Healthcare and Oncology Divisions - also charge "Bayer has created a workplace in which vice presidents can announce with impunity that they are 'never hiring another woman over 40 again. They’re all crazy!' or can dictate that the only kind of working mothers who can succeed are ones who hire full-time nannies or otherwise abdicate their child-rearing responsibilities. In fact, a senior manager has announced that he 'needed to stop hiring women of reproductive age.' "
“My pregnancy should have been a time of joy, laughter and happiness. But I was not able to enjoy that because of Bayer’s discrimination against me, and I will never be able to get that experience back," one of the plaintiffs, Vicky Barghout, says in a statement sent to us. "No company has the right to do that. Bayer does not respect the mothers who work for it; instead it rewards hard-working mothers and pregnant women with demotions, pay reductions, and denial of job opportunities. All of this from a company that is supposed to concern itself with women’s health.”
We await a response from Bayer. UPDATE: A Bayer spokeswoman sends us this: "Bayer is aware of the lawsuit filed today in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey alleging gender class discrimination by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals and Bayer Corporation. The company had previously received administrative complaints of discrimination from six current or former Wayne, New Jersey-based employees from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"Bayer was prepared to cooperate fully with the Commission and respond to each of the discrimination charges, but the plaintiffs elected to terminate all six administrative proceedings and file the lawsuit without further investigation or findings by the Commission. Bayer denies the allegations of gender discrimination and will vigorously defend itself against these charges. Bayer will not comment further on pending litigation, other than to note that it is committed strongly to a policy of non-discrimination and equal treatment for all employees."
photo courtesy of 3neus Flickr creative commons