Life, Love, and Dirty Diapers

Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals Sued

on October 1, 2011

A lawsuit was filed in New Jersey against Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals for discrimination against women, working mothers in particular. They were able to make it a class action lawsuit to include more groups of women in the company as well.

Complaints:

  • Women are paid less. (Two women were documented as being paid $30,000 less than the men in comparable positions.)
  • Women are denied promotions.
  • It is a hostile work environment
  • Sexual harassment

Examples of a hostile work environment:

  • Company newsletter said men are better managers because they’re not prone to “backstabbing,” “indecision,” and “mood swings” like women are
  • Negative comments about women who needed to leave for child care or who went on maternity leave
  • “I need to stop hiring women of reproductive age.”
  • “I’m never hiring another woman over 40 again. They’re all crazy!”
  • “Women with power are ‘loose canons’ who often feel threatened by colleagues.”
  • “One morning in September 2010, the defendant (Cleve) Scott approached Ms. Santangelo while she was in the cafeteria. As she headed towards the elevator, he came up behind her, tapped her on the shoulder and said, ‘I’m going to join you for the ride.’ He then followed her into the elevator where the two of them were alone. During the elevator ride, Ms. Santangelo could see Defendant Scott eyeing her body and the oblong-shaped donut in her hand. When the elevator reached her floor, she told Defendant Scott to have a nice day. At that point, he grabbed her arm and whispered, ‘Not as nice of a day as if I could watch that whole donut slide down your throat.‘” She later explained this to a Manager who said “Why don’t you just stop taking the elevator?”
  • “I really like how you look on all fours.” – Male employee to female employee

The Women who are suing say:

  • “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. 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.” – Vicky
  • “We and the other women at Bayer take our careers very seriously, and our income is important to our families. For years, we tried to overcome the prejudice and discrimination at Bayer by proving ourselves to be even better than required. When that didn’t work, we went to HR and Senior Management. Human Resources and Senior Management have failed us and Bayer’s female employees. It is our hope that through the court, we can make things better for women at the Company.” – Jennifer

Goals:

  • Back pay for the women
  • Damages to the tune of $100 million
  • Policy changes for Bayer so that women are treated fairer

Bayer’s Response:

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.

What are your thoughts on this? I’m not normally a super huge lawsuit fan, but I feel like they definitely have a case here. I mean that donut comment was way out of line. And that’s a big pay gap. So hopefully they will succeed. I mean, if this is what it takes for companies to realize that women deserve better, so be it. What are your thoughts?

Sources:

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