More Women Suing Bayer Unit

From Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA) (May 26, 2011)


May 26--A class action suit alleging that Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals discriminated against women employees has been expanded to include female pharmaceutical sales representatives and all women in Bayer HealthCare's Consumer Care unit -- groups who weren't originally included in a gender bias complaint filed earlier this year against the drug giant.

In an amended complaint filed Wednesday in federal court in New Jersey, lawyers for the women said the sales representatives were paid less and not promoted as often as male peers while the women in the consumer care division were sexually harassed by Bayer executives and the company ignored their requests for help.

The original complaint, filed in March in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., by six current and former female Bayer HealthCare employees on behalf of other women at the company, seeks $100 million in lost salary and benefits. It alleges Bayer executives were openly hostile to women -- especially pregnant women, working mothers and women who took maternity leaves.

Bayer HealthCare, based in New Jersey, is a division of Bayer Corp., a German company with its U.S. headquarters in Robinson.

In a statement, Bayer denied the allegations, pledged to defend itself and said it is "committed strongly to a policy of nondiscrimination and equal treatment for all employees."

In the amended complaint, Natalie Celske, a senior sales consultant, said that in 2009 she was replaced in a district trainer position based in Boise, Idaho, by a male colleague who had lower sales results and lower overall performance. When she asked a manager why, he replied that the male candidate was "more into [the man's] career path, not yours."

Since then, the male supervisor has declined to consider her for any promotions and exhibits hostile behavior to her compared with how he treats male employees, the complaint said.

In a portion of the complaint that broadens the gender bias allegations to the consumer care division, Vera Santangelo, a financial specialist in that unit, said that despite several exceptional performance awards, she received less pay than male colleagues and was subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting the harassment.

Ms. Santangelo alleged a senior attorney for Bayer HealthCare repeatedly made comments about her body and her attire and once made an inappropriate comment to her during an elevator ride.

She sought help from an on-site counselor and reported the incident to a company hotline, Bayer's corporate ombudsman and an official in human resources, the complaint said.

When the harassment did not stop, according to the complaint, she confided in her manager who "dismissed or diminished her concerns and ... made it seem like the sexual harassment she was experiencing was her fault or her problem."

In a subsequent performance review, the complaint said, her manager said she was "too emotional" and threatened to lower her rating, which could prevent her from receiving a pay raise and make her ineligible for future promotions. She is currently on a short-term medical leave related to stress caused by the harassment, the complaint said.

Joyce Gannon: jgannon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1580.

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Posted: May 2011


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