On Thursday, four former Forest Labs employees sued the company for at least $100 million over alleged gender discrimination and discrimination against women who become pregnant or care for young children. The lawsuit seeks class-action status and both punitive damages as well as compensations for about 1,500 current and former sales representatives of Forest Labs. The complaint gains significance considering that on another front the company is being severely criticized over its governance practices and succession planning by Carl Icahn, the second-largest shareholder of the company.
The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan alleges that Forest Labs deprived women from equal pay, bonuses and promotions with men. The women sales representatives who left the company in 2010 and 2011 also claimed that the company lowered internal rankings or women who took maternity leave. According to the complaint the company also frowned upon job-share positions that allowed workers to care for their children.
One of the complainants, Barrett, said that her “President’s Club” ranking had plummeted after each of two maternity leaves. Another complainant, Seard, alleged that she was declared “unmotivated” to work since she requested a job-share position to care for her epileptic son.
The lawsuit mentioned, “Gender discrimination is Forest’s standard operating procedure rather than a sporadic occurrence.” In response, Forest Labs issued a statement saying, “We believe these claims have no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously.”
The law firm of the plaintiffs is Sanford Wittels & Heisler, which is known to have won settlements of $175 million in 2010 and $99 million in 2012 against Novartis AG in separate cases involving sales representatives.
The case is Barrett et al v. Forest Laboratories Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-05224.