Woman seeks $100 million from employer for gender discrimination

Posted in Sexual Harassment on May 10, 2013

Women are making a lot of headway in the corporate world, but there are still some fiercely competitive industries that discriminate against women by forcing them to choose between career and childbirth. Because only women can give birth, any policies that promote pregnancy discrimination or gender discrimination in general are a form of sexual harassment.

A sales representative for Merck & Co. says she was penalized for choosing to have children, and she is now suing the nation’s second largest pharmaceutical company for $100 million. In her lawsuit, the woman alleges that Merck engages in “systematic, company-wide discriminatory treatment of its female employees on the basis of their gender and their taking federal and state-protected pregnancy leave.”

The woman has worked for Merck since 2004, and says she has consistently been a top sales performer in her market on the East Coast. But in her lawsuit, she claims she was demoted after taking maternity leave in 2010. She was also allegedly subjected to unfair performance evaluations that also kept her from being promoted.

According to the lawsuit, Merck’s company-wide sales incentive plan essentially institutionalizes gender discrimination. The woman says that the incentive plan “provides that the compensation of managers and directors is decreased when their employees take legally protected leave. … Through this centralized policy, Merck discourages management from hiring and promoting women.”

These are some serious allegations against a very profitable company. Because the plaintiff believes that other women may have also been victims of discrimination, she is seeking class-action status. Hopefully, the lawsuit itself will cause other major corporations to re-examine their own policies. No woman should have to choose between motherhood and a successful career

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, “Merck sales rep claims sexual bias, seeks over $100 mln,” Ransdell Pierson, May 9, 2013