NEWARK, N.J. -- Just days after the one year anniversary of winning a $250 million verdict for female sales representatives at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, the law firm of Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP filed a nearly identical class action on behalf of female sales representatives at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals.
According to the amended complaint, there is an entirely new class of plaintiffs and an additional Bayer HealthCare Division now added to the case. In addition, the complaint details even more outrageous behaviors from senior Bayer individuals, including a Senior Counsel for the Company harassing women at Bayer HealthCare Corporate Care by making comments such as "I really like how you look on all fours," and telling another woman he wished he could watch an entire donut "slide down her throat."
The female pharmaceutical sales representatives at Bayer newly added to the class have been paid and promoted less than their male counterparts. For example, Class Representative Natalie Celske is a high-performing sales representative who has been with Bayer for thirteen years and has repeatedly won national awards for her performance. However, Ms. Celske has watched less-qualified male counterparts pass her by as they were promoted up the ladder.
When Ms. Celske raised questions about the lack of advancement opportunities, her male manager commented that opportunities were set aside to support a lower-performing male colleague's career development. When she asked what about her own career development, the male manager derisively scoffed "what about it?"
Katherine Kimpel, lead counsel for the plaintiffs and the class and partner at Sanford Wittels & Heisler, LLP, commented "Bayer's failure to recognize, promote, and otherwise treat Ms. Celske fairly is illegal. It is also unwise; even by Bayer's own metrics, Ms. Celske is an exemplary performer. What happened to Ms. Celske is representative of a deeper company-wide problem of gender discrimination in the sales force."
Further echoing some of the most compelling testimony in the Novartis gender discrimination case, the case has also grown to include evidence of sexual harassment ignored and tacitly condoned by Bayer. In the Novartis trial, the jury heard compelling testimony from women who had been harassed by doctors to whom they marketed drugs. Here, the harassers are actually on Bayer payroll. For example, Class Representative Vera Santangelo suffered discrimination at the hands of an attorney working as Senior Counsel for Bayer HealthCare's Consumer Care division.
"Ms. Santangelo sought help within the company in every way possible – she called the hotline, spoke with the Ombudsman, and otherwise reached out to Human Resources, the Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, and to both the former and the current Presidents of Bayer HealthCare Consumer Care," explained Steven Wittels, also an attorney for the plaintiffs and class and a founding partner at the firm. "Rather than addressing the problem, Bayer turned a blind eye to Ms. Santangelo's plight. Even worse, Bayer has recently been subjected Ms. Santangelo to retaliation for trying to protect her rights in the workplace."
The Amended Complaint adds two new Class Representatives -- a sales representative and an employee at Consumer Care -- to join the six Class Representatives who filed the original complaint in March of this year on behalf of themselves and a class of female managers in the United States under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and New Jersey law on March 21, 2011. The Amended Complaint expands the class to include all women sales representatives at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals and now all women at Bayer HealthCare Consumer Care, a division of Bayer HealthCare which was not named in the original complaint.
Ms. Kimpel commented that "if history is to be any guide, the stories of our plaintiffs are only the tip of the iceberg and can only mean more trouble for Bayer. Bayer is supposed to be a major proponent of women's health, but there is nothing healthy about working at Bayer if you're a woman. Sooner or later, Bayer is going to be held accountable for the ways it has mistreated, underpaid, and under-promoted its female employees."
Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals and Bayer HealthCare Consumer Care are subsidiaries of Bayer Corporation, the American arm of Bayer AG, a multinational entity based in Germany. In North America, Bayer Corporation had 2010 net sales of$10.86 billion and employed 16,400 individuals at year-end. Bayer Corporation is incorporated under the laws of Indiana and headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals is a subsidiary of Bayer Corporation that develops and markets prescription medications, biological products, and biotechnology. It is incorporated under the laws ofDelaware and headquartered in Wayne, New Jersey. Bayer HealthCare Consumer Care is a subsidiary of Bayer Corporation that develops and markets over-the-counter medications and nutritional supplements. It is incorporated under the laws ofIndiana and headquartered in Morristown, New Jersey.