Bayer bias suit grows with new plaintiffs

The gender bias suit against Bayer just got bigger. Two more plaintiffs have joined the case, which claims the drugmaker discriminated against women by paying and promoting them inequitably and by creating a hostile work environment. The suit also now extends to include sales reps and female staff in the company's consumer unit.

In specifically mentioning female sales reps, the Bayer case is now in the same camp as the Novartis gender-discrimination suit settled last summer. In that case, women claimed bias and hostility in the company's sales operation; the company agreed to pay $175 million to make up for back pay and lost promotions and to set up company programs to help women advance.

The expanded Bayer suit, originally filed in March, now covers several hundred--and perhaps more than 1,000--female workers, Reuters reports. The same law firm represented the women in the Novartis case. "We're hearing stories that are so similar to the evidence that we showed at the Novartis trial," Katherine Kimpel, a partner at Sanford Wittels & Heisler, told Reuters. "Even when confronted with explicit claims of discrimination, Bayer did nothing."

The suit says the company paid women less, promoted them less often and tolerated sexual harrassment by Bayer executives, even after female victims complained. Bayer has denied the claims, saying that it will "vigorously defend" the lawsuit.

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