Sanford Heisler Wins Certification Victory in $250 Million Sex Discrimination Case Against Merck & Co., Inc.

Posted April 28th, 2016.

U.S. District Court Certifies Female Sales Representatives’ Nationwide Equal Pay Act Class Suit Against Pharma Behemoth Merck & Co., Inc.

New York, April 28, 2016—The women in Smith et al. v. Merck & Co., Inc., 3:13-cv-02970 (D.N.J.), a $250 million gender bias class action, scored another victory on Wednesday, when Judge Michael A. Shipp of the U.S. District Court in New Jersey conditionally certified a class of current and former female sales representatives challenging discrimination at the pharmaceutical giant. The ruling paves the way for thousands of women across the country to join the lawsuit.

Judge Shipp’s ruling concluded that “[t]he information submitted by Plaintiffs shows that the sales representatives had similar responsibilities; that named plaintiffs were paid less than some allegedly similarly situated males; and that compensation decision, although based in part on input from some direct managers, were finalized by a central, common office.” The Court also cited statistical evidence submitted by the Plaintiffs, which demonstrated that female sales representatives earned on average 1.4% less per year than male sales representatives in the same roles. Based on this evidence, the Court concluded that the lawsuit should go forward as a collective action.

According to David Sanford, Chairman of Sanford Heisler, LLP and co-lead counsel for the Plaintiffs — “The Court’s message was clear: Many women at Merck may have suffered discrimination in pay. In the ongoing fight for pay equity, this is an important step forward.”

“We are very pleased with the Court’s decision,” said Deborah Marcuse of Feinstein Doyle Payne & Kravec, LLC, co-lead counsel for the Plaintiffs. “The Court’s decision means that thousands of Merck sales representatives across the country will have an opportunity to participate in this lawsuit and challenge Merck’s discriminatory policies. This decision sends a strong message to female Merck sales representatives everywhere that they are not alone.”

Equal pay for women has been an increasingly important issue, from corporate boardrooms to the media to the presidential campaign trail. “The Court’s decision is part of a national movement towards equal pay for women,” said Senior Litigation Counsel Russell Kornblith at Sanford Heisler, a member of the plaintiffs’ legal team. “Sanford Heisler is proud to be a leader in the fight for gender pay equity in the courts,” he added. The firm is also currently litigating pay equity cases against Forest Laboratories and consulting giant KPMG, among others.

In addition to challenging unequal, centralized pay decisions in their suit against Merck & Co., Inc., the Plaintiffs also allege that Merck systematically discriminates against female sales representatives, and pregnant women in particular, in promotions and other terms and conditions of employment. The Plaintiffs plan to seek class certification of their systemic gender discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in the coming months.

Plaintiffs and the class are represented by David Sanford, Andrew Melzer, Russell Kornblith, and David Tracey of Sanford Heisler, LLP and by Deborah Marcuse of Feinstein Doyle Payne & Kravec, LLC. Mr. Sanford and Ms. Marcuse are also co-lead counsel in the firm’s’ gender discrimination class action against Forest Laboratories, currently being litigated in the Southern District of New York. Conditional certification, in that case, was granted in August 2015.

About Sanford Heisler LLP

Sanford Heisler, LLP is a national public interest class-action litigation law firm, which has offices in Washington, DC, New York, San Francisco, and San Diego.  Sanford Heisler is committed to protecting the rights of individuals in employment discrimination, wage and hour, qui tam, and other civil rights matters. The firm has extensive experience in complex class action litigation, having successfully represented thousands of individuals in major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents select individual clients such as executives, lawyers in employment disputes, and whistleblowers. The firm has recovered over $1 billion for its clients.  For more information, visit or contact Sanford Heisler at  646-791-4848. For the latest news visit our newsroom at   or follow us on Twitter at

For more information, contact Jamie Moss, newsPRos, 646-791-4848, [email protected].