Are the human-resources systems in BigPharma rigged against female employees? That could just be. Sanford Heisler law firm, which has made its brandname in representing plaintiffs in sex-discrimination lawsuits, is currently representing Kelli Smith in her lawsuit against Merck & Company. In 2010, Sanford Heisler won a $250 million verdict for female employees at Novartis, which was later reduced to $175 million in a settlement. In 2007, the firm also represented female employees at GE, which the company settled.
As Reuters reports, "Kelli Smith v. Merck & Co" is both an individual and possibly a class action lawsuit. It alleges that Merck systematically discriminates against employees who are female. Smith contends that in 2010 she was demoted after becoming pregnant and taking maternity leave. Following that her performance reviews were negative. The suit is for more than a $100 million.
Given the difficulty class actions have been having getting certification - e.g. "Dukes v Wal-Mart" - it will be interesting to follow if this one makes it there. However, the reality that Sanford Heisler is in the loop on this one should lead us to anticipate that the defendant might seek to settle - early in the game. The suit was filed last Thursday.