In age discrimination suit, US agency sues Novo Nordisk for filling job with younger, less qualified applicant

Novo Nordisk is in hot water with a U.S. agency for alleged age discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued the company for allegedly denying a lateral transfer to a 62-year-old employee because of her age and instead hiring a less-qualified 33-year-old.

Novo's employee had worked for Novo Nordisk as an obesity care specialist since 2015. When the same position opened in another territory closer to where she lived, she applied and interviewed. But instead of hiring her, the company selected someone 30 years younger from another state.

The company conducted an internal investigation and found that the hiring manager violated Novo Nordisk’s anti-discrimination policy by choosing the younger candidate because he could fill the position for the "long-term," the EEOC says.  Even after finding the violation, the company denied its employee the transfer.

The conduct not only violates Novo Nordisk’s policy, but the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which was enacted by Congress in 1967, EEOC says. The law forbids discrimination against employees 40 or older. The EEOC stepped in by filing a lawsuit in New Jersey, after an initial attempt to reach a pre-litigation settlement.

The suit seeks to “remedy and prevent the age discrimination in this case,” according to an EEOC statement on the lawsuit.

Novo Nordisk is far from the first pharma company to be served with an age discrimination lawsuit. Last September, two former Eli Lilly job applicants said the company “systematically excluded” older candidates for diabetes and primary care sales positions and preferred younger workers even if the older applicants were equally or more qualified. In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs said Eli Lilly filled rep positions with interns until there were “no interns left." This was allegedly in accordance with CEO David Ricks' desire to increase the percentage of millennial sales representatives.

Before that in June of 2021, a former AstraZeneca sales manager sued the company for allegedly firing her due to her age. The 51-year-old was among the oldest in her division and was at the company for 19 years. When she got a new direct supervisor, she was allegedly subject to disparaging remarks. The former employee claimed another reason for her dismissal was her refusal to market drugs beyond their FDA labels. A jury awarded her $2.4 million a year ago.

Novo Nordisk has not replied to Fierce Pharma's request for comment at the time of publishing.