A Lilly diversity officer said the original lawsuit filed by four plaintiffs in April 2006 lacked merit and that it would act on the new allegations if appropriate. Dennis Hayes, the NAACP's executive director, predicted other individual plaintiffs would come forward to join the 53 already named because "there is not true diversity at Eli Lilly. "Diversity means more than dealing with those that aren't like us. It really means we look to outcomes to make sure that everybody is being treated the same, that there's true equality across the board," says Hayes, an Indianapolis native.
The lawsuit alleges Lilly paid black employees less, passed them over for promotions, subjected them to harassment such as epithets, and retaliated against them when they complained. Rose says his firm has heard from several hundred current and former Lilly employees and has shared with the company the names of 180.
Patty Martin, Lilly's vice president for global diversity, says the original complaint filed last year was groundless and the new allegations didn't reflect Lilly's corporate values and that the company provides many tools for employees to report discrimination. "We're going to promptly and thoroughly investigate these new allegations and take appropriate actions as necessary," Martin tells the AP. "We're disappointed in their decision to join the lawsuit."
Plaintiff Margie Reliford of Indianapolis said she was a clinical trial coordinator when she left Lilly in 2004 after being passed over for promotion in favor of white colleagues with less education and less experience. "I hit a ceiling, and there's no sunlight," Reliford tells the AP.
Hayes says local chapters of the Baltimore-based NAACP have accepted donations from Lilly in the past but no longer will while the case is being litigated. "Certainly The African-American community does have much invested in Eli Lilly, and Eli Lilly should support African-American organizations."
Lilly's highest ranking black employee is Derica Rice, the cfo and a senior vice president, the AP notes, and the drugmaker employs about 42,000 people worldwide. One black also sits on its 12-member board of directors.