Merck & Co., one of the world’s seven largest pharmaceutical companies, is being sued by Kelli Smith, a  Merck sales representative for at approximately $100 million. In her claim Smith alleges that Merck does not give women equal opportunities for advancement and punishes female employees for taking maternity leave.

According to Smith,  she won awards for her work but was unfairly demoted after taking maternity leave in 2010.  She further alleges that she was told by her manager that she had been demoted because of the timing of her leave. She was also told she was ineligible for a prestigious company award for the same reason. She claims that almost every other member of her team received that award that year, except another female employee with children and a man who had just joined the company. Adding insult to injury, some of the award-winners had lower sales totals than Smith did in that year.

The lawsuit also claims that Merck discourages the hiring and promotion of women because compensation for the managers and directors is decreased when employees take leave, including legally protected maternity leave. Consequently, management tries to get pregnant women or women who may get pregnant to leave the company so they will not take pregnancy leave and affect compensation and sales totals.

Federal and California Employment Laws were enacted to protect employees from gender bias, such as in the above story.   Once such law is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination in employment.  This law states that employers may not discriminate against employees on the basis of sex, which includes pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions, as well as sexual harassment.

If you have suffered wrongful termination or discrimination due to your gender, religion, age or race please give California Employment Attorney, Todd M. Friedman a call at  (877) 449-8898 for a free consultation.