Drugmaker Sued by U.S. Employees for Gender Discrimination

Six current and former female sales representatives are accusing Japanese North American division drugmaker, Daiichi Sankyo, of gender discrimination in a $100 million class action lawsuit.

The lawsuit states the women are trying to put an end to employment discrimination for themselves as well as several hundred other female sales reps currently employed by the U.S. division of Daiichi Sankyo. The Japanese pharmaceutical company manufactures cholesterol and blood pressure drugs. The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco federal court yesterday. According to the lawsuit, the women are underpaid compared to their male counterparts; women are not promoted as quickly as the male employees are; pregnant women, as well as mothers of young children, are not treated as well as other employees.

The complaint also states that Daiichi Sankyo’s strategy is to use attractive women to promote the drugs, claiming that the male executives treat the females as “props.” One of the plaintiffs, Sara Wellens, said she joined Daiichi Sankyo with three years of experience. She made it a point to state that she ranked number 9 out of 500 sales representatives at her level. Yet, she complains, she stood by and watched as her male co-workers received promotions, as well as perks and training. She believes that she was held back when she became pregnant and filed for maternity leave. When she returned from her leave, she alleges that the company gave her flak, and she stated that a male supervisor called her a “baby maker.”

The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit claimed that they were demoted, fired or forced to resign, recounting their own experiences while being employed at Daiichi Sankyo.

A spokeswoman for Daiichi Sankyo Inc., the U.S. subsidiary, said in a statement that it complies with all laws regarding equal opportunity and nondiscrimination. She said that the company is reviewing the lawsuit but doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Daiichi Sankyo Inc., based in Parsippany, New Jersey, currently employees approximately 3,000 people in the United States.

“Daiichi Sankyo reaps multibillion dollar profits by relying upon a predominantly female sales force” in the U.S., the complaint states.

“Daiichi treats them largely as props in a sales and marketing strategy. Like dinners, sports outings, and speaking fees, female sales reps are considered one of many variations on the inducements that the pharmaceutical company dangles to sway doctors to its brand. Daiichi asks its female sales reps to wine and dine male doctors; offer friendships and gifts to foster ‘quid pro quo’ relationships; and devote unbounded attention to obtain their allegiance to Daiichi’s drugs,” the complaint adds.

The suit alleges that the male employees at Daiichi Sankyo hold almost all of the U.S. management positions and controlling decisions on salary, promotions and terminations.

“Female sales employees of childbearing age have been cautioned against committing ‘career suicide’ if they decide to become pregnant, take maternity leave, or seek part-time work schedules at Daiichi,” the complaint states. “Women who have been pregnant while working at Daiichi Sankyo have been faced with situations where they were called ‘baby makers;’ forced to attend work meetings in smoke-filled bars while pregnant; subjected to suspect compensation ‘offsets’ after returning from maternity leave; discouraged from breastfeeding, and ‘managed out’ demoted for complaining about gender discrimination or for becoming pregnant.”

The six female plaintiffs are seeking class action status for the case, damages totaling more than $100 million for all the women in the class, adjustment of wages and benefits and awards of back pay, lost benefits and preferential rights to jobs. The suit also seeks an injunction against future discrimination and implementation of policies to provide women with equal employment.

Daiichi Sankyo has a total of more than 30,000 employees worldwide. It sells several drugs, including the blood thinner, Effient; cholesterol drug, Welchol; Zelboraf for advanced melanoma and Azur, Benicar and Tribenzor for high blood pressure.

Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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