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Female Merck rep sues the company for gender bias

A senior sales rep with Merck and company says that the pharmaceutical company systematically discriminates against women. She says in a workplace discrimination lawsuit that the drug maker does not give female workers the same kinds of employment opportunities that men receive.

She also says that company policies encourage managers to punish women who take maternity leave. The allegations are a part of a lawsuit the woman filed this week on the East Coast against the nation’s second-largest drug maker.

The woman says that she was hired in 2004. Her gender bias lawsuit says that she has been a top performer in terms of sales while with Merck. However, she says that she not only hit a glass ceiling with the company, but was actually demoted after taking legally protected maternity leave in 2010. She seeks class-action status in her $100 million sex discrimination lawsuit.

Certainly, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act protect women from workplace discrimination and retaliation related to a pregnancy and maternity leave. But, the woman alleges that systematic policies of discrimination at Merck act as a deterrence for women in deciding to have children if they want to advance within the pharmaceutical company.

She says that pay incentives for supervisors and managers are structured in such a way that the policy promotes discriminatory practices. The lawsuit alleges that managers receive a decrease in pay if a worker takes protected maternity leave. In her experience with Merck, the woman’s lawsuit alleges that despite her performance record as a sales rep, her performance evaluations suffered and she received a demotion for taking maternity leave in 2010.

Reuters says that the company could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit.

Source: Reuters, “Merck sales representative claims sexual bias, seeks over $100 million," Ransdell Pierson, May 9, 2013

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