Female reps slap Daiichi with $100M discrimination suit

Six sales reps have sued Daiichi Sankyo's U.S. unit for discrimination.--Courtesy of Daiichi Sankyo

Daiichi Sankyo is the latest drugmaker to find itself in the hot seat for alleged gender bias. Six sales reps have sued the Japanese company's U.S. unit, claiming they lost pay, promotions--and sometimes their jobs. They're aiming for class action status and $100 million in damages.

The sales reps' claims are specific and vivid: They say women were cautioned against becoming pregnant--it would be "career suicide"--and that women who did were dismissed as "baby-makers." Women returning from maternity leave "received suspect reductions in compensation," the complaint alleges, and women who complained were "managed out" of their jobs.

Attorney Felicia Medina

Represented by Sanford Heisler, the firm that successfully sued Novartis ($NVS) for gender bias a couple of years ago, the plaintiffs also tick off the usual claims in these discrimination suits. Daiichi set up a male-dominated leadership structure, had policies and practices that systematically discriminated against female employees and offered discriminatory terms and conditions of employment.

Daiichi's behavior "reads like a primer on how not to treat female employees, particularly those who are pregnant or have caregiving responsibilities for infants," Sanford Heisler attorney Felicia Medina said in a statement. The women's experiences "illustrate the lengths Daiichi Sankyo goes to ensure that women remain in their 'place,'" Medina added.

The Daiichi case comes after a $175 million settlement in the Novartis gender-bias case. Bayer reps have also sued, asking for more than $100 million. And Forest Laboratories ($FRX) reps filed discrimination claims last year, seeking $100 million for a class of about 1,500 women.

- read the Sanford Heisler release