Bayer Gender Discrimination Case
BAYER’S DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT NOW REQUIRES EXTRA-STRENGTH CURE
For more information, contact Jamie Moss, newsPRos, 201-493-1027, firstname.lastname@example.org
On May 26, 2011 – 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 an Amended Complaint in its nearly identical class action on behalf of female employees at Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals and Bayer Healthcare Consumer Care.
The individual plaintiffs and the class are represented by Lead Counsel Katherine Kimpel of Sanford Wittels & Heisler, LLP, in Washington, D.C. Ms. Kimpel recently served as Co-lead Counsel in Velez v. Novartis, securing a verdict of more than $253 million, the largest jury award in the U.S. in a gender discrimination case.
Women at Bayer – those in entry-level positions all the way up to those in managerial positions – 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.
“Bayer engages in systemic discrimination against its female employees – particularly those with family responsibilities – 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,” said Ms. Kimpel. “To make matters worse, Bayer is often blatant about its disregard for its female employees.”
For example, 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, expanded on her earlier comments about Bayer’s glass ceiling, commenting that: “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.”
The Amended Complaint adds new plaintiffs, expands the class, and lists Bayer HealthCare Consumer Care as a Defendant. In addition, the case has also grown to include evidence of sexual harassment ignored and tacitly condoned by Bayer. The complaint details even more outrageous behaviors from senior Bayer individuals, including a Senior Counsel for the Company. According to the amended complaint, this Senior Counsel harassed women at Bayer , including Class Representative Vera Santangelo, 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.”
“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 subjected Ms. Santangelo to retaliation for trying to protect her rights in the workplace.”
According to the complaint, Bayer has published and disseminated articles that suggest men are better suited to be managers than women, describing females as prone to “mood swings,” “indecision,” and “backstabbing;” and concluding that “women with power are ‘loose canons’ who often feel threatened by colleagues.” The complaint also cites comments by managers disparaging working mothers and declaring that Bayer “needed to stop hiring women of reproductive age.”
In addition, the plaintiffs assert that senior managers have made negative comments about women discussing or acknowledging child-care responsibilities and have overlooked female employees who availed themselves of federally-protected maternity leave for promotions. As Class Representative Vicky Barghout explained, “My pregnancy should have been a time of joy, laughter and happiness. But I was not able to enjoy that because of Bayer’s discrimination against me, and I will never be able to get that experience back. No company has the right to do that. Bayer does not respect the mothers who work for it; instead it rewards hard-working mothers and pregnant women with demotions, pay reductions, and denial of job opportunities. All of this from a company that is supposed to concern itself with women’s health.”
In response to their complaints of discrimination and retaliation, the Class Representatives were told by Bayer managers they should “know better” and that “the company won’t do anything about [their complaints].” Corroborating this lack of concern, the Bayer’s Human Resources Department responded to females’ complaints by characterizing gender discrimination as “a grey area” that should be handled by the employee, not the Company.
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.”
The original Complaint, filed against Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals on March 21, 2011, cited instances of illegal gender discrimination that echoed the experiences of female employees at Novartis Pharmaceuticals. The six original Class Representatives—Victoria Barghout, Jennifer Christiansen, Barbara Feringa, Jennifer Musumeci, Laura Reilly, and Karen Salomon—are now joined by two additional Class Representatives: Natalie Celeske and Vera Santangelo. The Class Representatives filed the complaint on behalf of themselves and a class of female employees in the United States under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and New Jersey law.
As such, the class of women covered by the case now includes all women at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals – from entry-level sales representatives up through high-level management – and all women at Bayer HealthCare Consumer Care.
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 of Delaware 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 of Indiana and headquartered in Morristown, New Jersey.