Quest hit with $100 million gender discrimination suit

NEW JERSEY Thu Jan 12, 2012 6:54pm EST

NEW JERSEY (Reuters) - Female sales representatives at Quest Diagnostics Inc on Thursday filed a $100 million federal lawsuit against the company, accusing the medical testing giant of gender discrimination.

Filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, the lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of "hundreds" of current and former female sales representatives who worked at the New Jersey-based company since February 17, 2010.

The suit, which was brought by Erin Beery and Heather Traeger, sales managers who are employed by Quest subsidiary AmeriPath Inc, says that Quest "grooms junior male employees for leadership positions," while fostering "an environment hostile to the success and advancement of female employees."

"Quest has known or should have known that its business practices - including, but not limited to, its promotion, discipline, demotion, evaluation, and compensation practices - have an illegal disparate impact on female employees, employees with family responsibilities, and pregnant employees," the lawsuit says. "Despite this knowledge, Quest has failed to take measures to rectify such illegal disparate impact."

According to the suit, two women in Quest's upper management, Michele Zwickl, vice president of sales for AmeriPath and Tara Botarelli, AmeriPath sales director for the East, "encourage and support" an "old boys' club," at the company.

Beery and Traeger accuse Quest of favoring male employees when it comes to promotions and pay and discriminating against workers who are pregnant and have caretaking responsibilities. The company also engages in sexual harassment and retaliates against workers who report harassment, the suit says.

Of 17 people in Quest's management, four are women, the suit says. Only two of the nine members on Quest's board of directors are women, according to the suit.

In a statement, Quest Diagnostics spokeswoman Wendy Bost said the company hadn't yet been served with or seen a copy of the lawsuit. "Quest Diagnostics is an equal opportunity employer. We are proud to be routinely recognized as a top employer in communities around the U.S," she said.

The complaint is Erin Beery and Heather Traeger et al v. Quest Diagnostics Inc. and AmeriPath Inc, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey. Docket number not immediately available.

(Reporting by Jennifer Golson; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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