The tough life of a pharma sales rep

The life of a pharma sales rep can be rough. Just ask former Pfizer reps Marjorie Wagoner and Karen Kirkpatrick, who, as BNET reports, were brutally driven from the company because of their age, according to court documents. The company has so far prevailed in both cases.

Pfizer accused both women of falsifying the "starter" forms they use to gather doctors' signatures in exchange for the free drug samples, BNET reports. Although they both denied the accusation, claiming that dates on them were only altered to correct doctors who had written the wrong date, they were audited and hauled to Chicago.  

Wagoner, who had worked at the company since 1980, described this interrogation as "rapid fire" and a "witch hunt," and felt "berate[d]...with false accusations that [she] had changed the date on certain drug sample starter forms to balance [her] daily sales activities." Wagoner tried to explain the discrepancies found in her starter forms, but was repeatedly cut off and told that she was "lying," according to court documents.  She was let go in July 2006 for the alleged falsification. At the time, Wagoner was 56 years old.

Wagoner maintained that she had felt pressure from her regional manager Clark Mohar, who had made comments about her age. He obtained this position in September 2005 as a results of a nationwide reorganization, prior to which he allegedly told her that he preferred to "hire his own reps" and he didn't want older sales representatives under his management, according to court documents. He subsequently undermined Wagoner in front of her sales contacts, but did not treat any of the younger sales representatives in a similar fashion, according to court documents.

Similarly, in September 2005, Geoff Holt became Kirkpatrick's district manager and Curt McAllister became her regional manager. When Kirkpatrick first met Holt on Sept. 12, 2005, he pulled her aside and said, "Karen, hey, Curt McAllister and I were in the bar last night and we didn't realize that you were as old as you are," according to court documents. He refused to clarify what he meant. A month later, Holt allegedly told Kirkpatrick, "Well, you certainly have been doing this a long time now. Have you thought about retirement?"

The following August, Kirkpatrick, who was 55 years old at the time, was terminated, after the company said she had falsified her starter forms and grilled her for hours in Chicago. The day she was terminated, Kirkpatrick was told to meet Holt at a storage unit with her company credit card and company car keys. After taking her keys Holt turned to Kirkpatrick, said "you're done," and drove away in the company car, leaving Kirkpatrick stranded more than two miles from home, according to court documents.

Pfizer isn't the only company accused of unfairly firing its employees. Last week, it was reported that a court reinstated a case brought by a Bristol-Myers Squibb scientist claiming he was fired for sticking up for a subordinate who complained that she had suffered sexual harassment. And Pfizer-Wyeth is facing a recently revived suit brought by Howard Henry for alleged discrimination against African Americans.

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