Pfizer Rep Canned For Getting Pregnant?

Pfizer Rep Canned For Getting Pregnant?

May 22nd, 2012 // 1:28 pm @


Early last year, former King Pharmaceuticals sales rep Anne Marie Hand notified her district manager that she was pregnant. She delivered the news just weeks after her manager was installed in this position and amid a transition in which the mid-sized drugmaker was being purchased by Pfizer. Her announcement did not go over well, though, and in fact, led to her termination several months later, according to a lawsuit Hand recently filed against Pfizer.

Employment disputes are everyday affairs, of course, and this lawsuit pertains to just one employee. Nonetheless, discrimination against pregnant workers has gained notice within the pharmaceutical industry. Two years ago, for instance, Novartis agreed to pay $152.5 million to settle a class action discrimination lawsuit brought by female sales reps after a federal jury decided against the drugmaker (see here).

And last year, a class action lawsuit was filed charging Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals and Bayer HealthCare Consumer Care with a pattern of discrimination in pay, promotions, and the treatment of pregnant women and mothers. An amended complaint later claimed sales reps were paid less but not promoted as often as men in similar jobs, and some women were sexually harassed by execs (read this).

In court documents, Hand claims her new district manager was inappropriate by describing the pregnancy as “bad timing” and complaining she would have to fill in for Hand during pregnancy leave. The lawsuit also mentions Hand was forced to take two days off for needed rest, which disrupted a scheduled meeting with her district manager, and her district manager allegedly then took what the lawsuit describes as the unusual step of requesting her book of contacts well before pregnancy leave was to have begun.

There was a dispute, however, over expense reports, notably, a surcharge that Hand mistakenly believed was for a parking garage, but apparently was a motor vehicle ticket. Hand later made corrections, but was fired for filing fraudulent reports. Yet Hand claims no one else was “reprimanded or terminated because of expense report issues” and she was aware of other reps who “accidentally” charged personal expenses with their corporate credit card or placed personal items on expense reports. “These issues were always easily resolved without issue,” according to the lawsuit.

The firing took place when Hand was eight-and-a-half months pregnant. And so, the lawsuit, which was filed in Superior Court in New Jersey, contends Pfizer used the expense reports as a “pretext.” The former rep, by the way, also claims she suffered muscle spasms, high blood pressure and contractions the day she was fired and had to be treated at a hospital. We asked Pfizer for a comment and will update you accordingly.

We asked Pfizer for comment and a spokesman wrote us this: “We have reviewed the allegations contained in this complaint and believe that they have no merit. Furthermore, Pfizer does not discriminate based on gender or pregnancy.”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: We obtained the lawsuit late last week from the courthouse and have not yet had an opportunity to scan the document. Once we do, we will provide a link so readers can access and review].

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