By Ransdell Pierson
May 9 A sales representative for Merck & Co.
filed a more than $100 million sex discrimination
lawsuit against the drugmaker on Thursday, claiming that it
particularly discriminates against pregnant employees and women
The plaintiff, Kelli Smith, in a lawsuit filed in U.S.
District Court in New Jersey, claims she was demoted for taking
maternity leave in 2010, and penalized by unfair performance
evaluations and other actions that stalled her career and hurt
The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, alleges the
No. 2 U.S. drugmaker engages in "systematic, companywide
discriminatory treatment of its female employees on the basis of
their gender and their taking federal and state-protected
Smith is described in the lawsuit as a senior sales rep in
Merck's Toms River, New Jersey, district, who has been a top
performer in terms of sales.
Smith was hired by Merck in 2004.
Merck officials could not be reached immediately for
The lawsuit claims that Merck's companywide sales incentive
plan "provides that the compensation of managers and directors
is decreased when their employees take legally protected leave.
... Through this centralized policy, Merck discourages
management from hiring and promoting women."
Smith is represented by the law firm of Sanford Heisler,
which won a May 2010 lawsuit that made similar claims against
Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG.
Novartis was ordered to pay $250 million in punitive damages
after a federal jury in Manhattan found the company had
discriminated against thousands of female sales reps in terms of
pay, promotions and pregnancy policies.
Following subsequent negotiations, Novartis reached a final
settlement that provided $175 million to its 6,200 affected
Shares of Merck were up 0.2 percent to $45.09 in midday
trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
The case is Kelli Smith, individually and on behalf of a
class of similarly situated female employees, vs Merck & Co
Case No: 3:33-av-00001