Laid-off Pfizer reps join OT lawsuit

Chalk this up to unintended consequences. Laid-off Pfizer sales reps are flocking to a longstanding class action seeking back overtime pay, BNet Pharma reports. Pfizer's moves to pare back its sales force may inadvertently cost the company more than it expected.

Pfizer has laid off thousands of reps over the past several years, including hundreds of job cuts in connection with the 2009 Wyeth merger. There are a fair number of ex-Pfizer sales folks floating around. Meanwhile, an overtime-pay lawsuit filed in 2006 by former rep Anthony Coultrip has been slowly advancing in the courts.

Now, those two trends appear to have collided. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away a case over sales-rep overtime, leaving intact some lower-court rulings that required OT pay--a ruling that could give the Pfizer case a boost. And now, Pfizer's laid-off reps are quickly signing on to that class action, BNet says. If they hadn't been let go, they might have stayed away, but as ex-employees they have little to lose. 

Overtime pay has been a big issue for pharma sales forces in recent years. Almost every Big Pharma has fought--or is now fighting--a lawsuit over whether reps are exempt from or subject to wage-and-hour laws. Novartis, Merck and Boehringer Ingelheim are on the hook for back OT pay as a result of those suits, while cases against AstraZeneca, Abbott Laboratories, and, of course, Pfizer remain pending.

- read the BNet piece