The drugmaker will pay $64,400 to settle a lawsuit charging severance pay was withheld from a long-time employee in order to force her to withdraw a discrimination charge, theAssociated Press reports.
Lilly must also specify in future severance agreements that employees don't have to waive the right to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or cooperate in an investigation. "A company may not condition receipt of benefits, such as severance benefits, on an employee's promise not to cooperate with the EEOC," Laurie Young, a EEOC regional attorney, says in a statement.
Starr Johnson worked for Lilly for more than 23 years before she was fired in 2005, shortly after filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC, the AP writes. Documents in the case indicate Johnson, a black woman, became disfigured in 1997 after she was exposed to a blood pathogen. She alleged a Lilly employee told her he was made her supervisor "so that he could watch her and get rid of her and that no one liked looking at her."
Lilly will pay Starr Johnson $54,400 in severance pay and $7,000 in interest and compensatory damages, according to a settlement order filed for the case in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The company also will cover her attorney fees. For its part, Lilly denies violating any law or regulation, the order states.
"The company's settlement involves no admission of wrongdoing on Lilly's part," spokeswoman Carla Cox wrote the AP in an e-mail. "And since we had already altered the language to which the EEOC objected, we agreed to resolve this dispute."