The Recorder, February 11, 2013 – After Gender Bias Win, Firm Goes After Another Drugmaker

Posted February 11th, 2013.

SAN FRANCISCO — The plaintiffs lawyers that once secured the largest-ever award in a gender discrimination suit from a Cravath, Swaine & Moore client have a new target: Japanese pharmaceutical firm Daiichi Sankyo.

The firm’s sales strategy, the complaint alleges, relies on using attractive women to promote drugs, and male executives treat female employees as “props.”

Daiichi Sankyo’s actions are a “primer on how a company should not operate or treat female employees,” states the complaint in Wellens v. Daiichi Sankyo, 13-581. Janette Wipper, managing partner of Sanford Heisler’s San Francisco office, said the pharmaceutical industry has a pattern of gender discrimination in its sales ranks.

Wipper worked on a similar case against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., which resulted in a record jury verdict of $250 million in 2010 and ultimately settled for roughly $175 million. To settle the case, Novartis, represented by Cravath, agreed to pay more than $100 million to class members and to implement new policies for training, evaluating and promoting employees.

The company employs approximately 3,000 people in the United States and sells drugs to treat cardiovascular disease, diabetes and melanoma.

However, while men were fast-tracked for promotion and received perks and mentoring, Wellens claims she was held back because she became pregnant and took maternity leave.

Other female plaintiffs said they were demoted, fired or forced to resign due to discrimination.

“All of the plaintiffs are very strong performers and really gave a lot to the company,” Wipper said. “That wasn’t recognized through pay or promotional opportunities.”

This article originally appeared in The Recorder.

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