Bayer Unit Faces $100 Million Gender Bias Lawsuit

It is another in a spate of gender discrimination lawsuits filed recently against large corporations: last Monday a class action lawsuit was filed against Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals and its parent, Bayer Corp., both U.S. units of Bayer AG, alleging the company has engaged in various discriminatory behaviors against its female employees. (1)

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. Federal Court in Newark on behalf of six former and current employees, claims that the company discriminates against women in terms of salary, job opportunities and family leave. (1)

Specifically, the lawsuit claims Bayer’s female employees receive less compensation than their male peers, are denied promotion opportunities and are offered only opportunities for lower ranking positions. Such actions violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and the Family Medical Leave Act, all federal laws; as well as the New Jersey State Family Leave Act and the Law Against Discrimination. (2)

The suit also alleges the company fosters a “hostile work environment” by, among other things, publishing and distributing reports offensive to its female employees. Such reports allegedly propose that men make better managers because they are “easier to deal with,” and describe women as “the fairer sex,” indecisive, backstabbing and prone to “mood swings.” (3)

The company is accused of showing particular bias against pregnant women and those with family obligations. One plaintiff in the suit claims she was fired while on maternity leave. Another claims she earned $30,000 a year less than her male peers. (2)

The lawsuit seeks $100 million in compensatory and punitive damages, covering back pay, legal costs and damages on behalf of female employees at or above the management level after November 21, 2009. In addition, it asks Bayer to establish programs to protect equal opportunities for women and to promote women in a non-discriminatory way. (2)

The company has denied all allegations.

Similar lawsuits have been filed recently against other major companies: Publicis Group S.A., the U.S. business and French advertising company for Toshiba Corp.; Goldman Sachs Group Inc.; and the U.S. unit of Novartis AG. In that case, the company agreed to pay a $175 million settlement following a $253 million jury verdict against it. There is more to come. The U.S. Supreme Court later this year is expected to hear a case against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. filed in 2010 on behalf of 1.5 million female employees. (1)



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