NEWARK, N.J., Jan. 17, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Sanford Heisler LLP today added four additional class representatives to the class action gender discrimination employment suit the firm filed in U.S. District Court for New Jersey against pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., Inc. in May 2013. The firm also increased the value of the case to $250 million.
The suit's original class representative Kelli Smith has been joined by female sales representatives from Merck locations coast to coast who also experienced discrimination based on their gender and pregnancy. Merck fosters a "boys' club" culture that affords men greater advancement opportunities and greater pay. Merck management discourages women from raising complaints of discrimination, instead telling them to "lie" to Human Resources. When women do complain within the company's internal channels, their complaints go ignored.
"The addition of four female Merck sales representatives as class representatives is further evidence of the pervasive nature of gender-based hostility throughout Merck's U.S. sales force," said Kate Mueting, attorney with the plaintiffs' legal team. "All of these women have experienced disastrous and painful career consequences as a result of Merck's policies that discourage female employees from having children and punish those who do. This class action brings light to this discrimination and aims to prevent the company from future discrimination."
Other members of the legal team at Sanford Heisler include David Sanford, Chairman of the firm; and Deborah Marcuse and Jennifer Siegel, attorneys in Sanford Heisler's New York office.
Sanford Heisler LLP has a long record of victories in employment discrimination matters brought by female employees of global pharmaceutical companies, including a recent gender discrimination case against Novartis that resulted in the largest-ever monetary award in a U.S. employment discrimination dispute.
The complaint details nearly identical patterns of treatment for Smith and the additional plaintiffs. All class representatives were well-regarded members of the company's sales force who earned accolades for their sales performance before becoming pregnant. During their pregnancies and after returning from maternity leave they were subjected to hostility, discrimination, workplace reassignments and other practices that reduced their compensation and caused them stress and anxiety.
"The discrimination and hostility women face at Merck is not limited to one office or region," said Deborah Marcuse. "The disparate and illegal treatment to which they are routinely and regularly subjected is rampant within this corporation from coast to coast, and it emanates from and is supported by Merck's highest levels of management. The conduct is intentional, deliberate, willful, malicious, reckless and callous."
Merck (MRK), headquartered in Whitehouse Station, NJ, employs some 83,000 individuals worldwide. Its 2012 global revenue was $47.3 billion, including $20.4 billion in the U.S. The company manufactures pharmaceuticals for many conditions, including women's health.
About Sanford Heisler
Sanford Heisler is a public interest law firm with offices in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco that specializes in employment discrimination, wage and hour, qui tam and other civil rights matters. The firm has extensive experience in complex class action litigation, having successfully represented thousands of individuals in major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents select individual clients with a particular emphasis on the representation of executives and lawyers in employment disputes and whistleblowers. In May 2010, the firm won the largest jury award in the U.S. in a gender discrimination employment class action when a jury returned a verdict of $253 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. In 2012, the firm settled a wage and hour case on behalf of sales reps employed by Novartis Pharmaceuticals for $99 million. For more information, contact Sanford Heisler at (202) 499-5200.
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