Female employees have filed a $100 million class action complaint against Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals for illegal gender discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and New Jersey state law. The case highlights the corporation’s pattern and practices of discrimination in promotions and pay, as well as the treatment of pregnant women and mothers. The complaint includes all female employees in Associate Director positions or higher and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, front and back pay, and lost benefits, in addition to compensatory, nominal, and punitive damages.
According to Katherine Kimpel of Sanford Wittels & Heisler, LLP, in Washington, D.C., the representing firm, “The situation at Bayer is a quintessential example of how the glass ceiling and maternal walls are still firmly in place in 2011.” She explains, “Bayer engages in systemic discrimination against its female employees… by paying them less than their counterparts, denying them promotions into better and higher paying positions, limiting their employment opportunities to lower and less desirable job classifications, and exposing them to different treatment and a hostile work environment.” This class action suit also cites specific occurrences when Bayer published and distributed articles suggesting that men are more qualified to be managers than are women, since women are “indecisive,” prone to “mood swings,” and “backstabbing.” According to the complaint, the Bayer articles assert, “women with power are loose cannons who often feel threatened by colleagues.” Furthermore, managers of the multinational corporation have been cited as claiming the company “needed to stop hiring women of reproductive age.”
The plaintiffs, six Class Representatives: Jennifer Christiansen, Victoria Barghout, Jennifer Musumeci, Barbara Feringa, Laura Reilly, and Karen Salomon, assert Human Resources and Senior Management have failed Bayer’s female employees. When complaints were made internally, the women were told gender discrimination is “a grey area” that should be handled by the employees, not the company. Furthermore, according to the complaint, the Class Representatives were told by Bayer management that the company would not do anything about their complaints and that they should “know better.” Representative Musumeci explained, “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.”
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