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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Bayer ‘News Summary’|Invites Class Action

NEWARK (CN) - In an "Executive News Summary" that acknowledged "that the proportion of women in executive positions at Bayer is too small," the health-care giant set itself up for the federal class action it now faces. "Labeling women 'the fairer sex,' the article described women as prone to 'mood swings,' 'indecision,' and 'backstabbing,'" the class claims - and that's not all.

"The article stated that a majority of men and women polled prefer to work for a male manager because men are 'easier to deal with' and 'much less likely to have a hidden agenda, suffer mood swings or get involved in office politics,'" the complaint states.

It continues: "The article concluded that 'women with power are "loose canons" who often feel threatened by colleagues.'

"When female employees have complained to upper-level management about discrimination, they have been told, 'You know better. The Company won't do anything about that.' Corroborating this lack of concern, the Company's Human Resources Department ('HR') has responded to complaints by characterizing gender discrimination as 'a grey area' that should be handled by the employee, not the Company.

"In attempting to seek resolution through HR, female employees have met a common refrain: 'This is just the way it is, deal with it.'

"Bayer has created a workplace in which Vice Presidents can announce with impunity that they are 'never hiring another woman over 40 again. They're all crazy!' or can dictate that the only kind of working mothers who can succeed are ones who hire full-time nannies or otherwise abdicate their child-rearing responsibilities. In fact, a senior manager has announced that he 'needed to stop hiring women of reproductive age.'

"Members of Human Resources have explicitly stated that the Company considers having young children a liability when considering advancement opportunities. In fact, a Vice President has specifically indicated that because a female employee availed herself of maternity leave, she was not promoted to a Director-level position.'"

Suing for the class, six women filed the complaint against Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, Bayer Corp. and nine top Bayer executives.

The women allege "company-wide discriminatory treatment of its female employees on the basis of their gender, their taking federal and state-protected leave and their status as pregnant women or primary-caregiving mothers."

Bayer, acknowledges its lack of female leadership, creates an environment that is hostile to women and hinders "the success and advancement of female employees," as demonstrated in its 2010 "Executive News Summary" that "suggested the superiority of men for management roles," according to the 85-page complaint.

Defendants, many of whose titles seem ironic, include Herm Cukier, "Vice President of Brand Management for Long-Acting Contraception in Women's Healthcare at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals;" Denise D'Agostino, director of Human Resources at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals; Susan Herster, "Senior Director of Market Research in Women's Healthcare at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals;" Sean Kolb-Hunt, vice president of Human Resources at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals; Duncan Lamb, "Vice President of Business Analytics in Women's Healthcare at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals;" Leslie North, "Vice President of Brand Management for Short-Term Contraception in Women's Healthcare at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals;" Stefan Oelrich, "Vice President and General Manager of Women's Healthcare at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals;" Robert Rosen, vice president of global oncology; and Todd Williamson, vice president for health outcomes and outcomes research.

The class seeks punitive damages, an order establishing an equality and fairness task force, implementation of female advancement programs and an order restoring them to the jobs "they would now be occupying," if not for discriminatory practices.

It is represented by Steven Wittels with Sanford, Wittels & Heisler of Fort Lee, N.J.

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