Merck & Co. hit with discrimination suit alleging racial mistreatment

Jon Campisi Nov. 29, 2014, 6:00pm


A suburban Philadelphia woman who claims she was fired from her job at a large drug manufacturing company because of her race and because of her formal complaints of disparate treatment has filed a federal discrimination compliant against her former employer.

St. David’s, Pa. resident Karen Hayes, who is African American, claims in her lawsuit, which was filed April 16 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Springhouse, Pa. attorney Kenneth L. Oliver, Jr., that she was terminated in the spring of 2010 because she complained of discriminatory treatment relating to her race.

Hayes worked at the Merck & Co. facility in Montgomery County from June 30, 2008, until April 13, 2010, the lawsuit states.

She was technically employed as a contractor for Aerotek Scientific, which is also a party to the litigation.

Aerotek provides contracted employees to pharmaceutical companies around Pennsylvania.

The complaint states that Hayes, who was jointly employed by the two defendants, worked as an ancillary materials program manager in Merck’s Ancillary Supplies Clinical Operations Team, during which she “performed her duties in an exemplary manner meeting and exceeding any and all reasonable performance expectations.”

The suit claims that as of April 12, 2010, only three of the 30 members of the ASCOT team were black; the group was headed by a white female identified in the lawsuit as Gail Rogers.

During her employment with the defendants, Hayes observed numerous occasions where black and other minority contractors were treated “more severely” and “less favorably” than white contractors, the lawsuit alleges.

On two occasions, Hayes witnessed incidents in which members of the management team dressed in costumes that “mocked or focused attention on members of the black race,” the complaint states.

Throughout her employment, Hayes was also subject to disparaging comments that focused on her race, including comments relating to the texture of her hair, the suit states.

The lawsuit claims that beginning in September 2009, when a white male was appointed to oversee Hayes’ work, the plaintiff was harassed and discriminated against because of her race.

Two white female supervisors engaged in discriminatory behavior against Hayes on various occasions, including making false and disparaging comments concerning Hayes’ conduct, disrupting meetings conducted by Hayes and her team, providing false reports of Hayes’ activities to management, undermining Hayes’ authority with members of her team, and creating apparent procedural irregularities and reporting them to management where “no such irregularities existed,” the lawsuit alleges.

“Such conduct was intended to create an impression that complainant had difficulty working with customers and others when in fact no such difficulty existed,” the complaint states.

Hayes eventually filed a complaint of discrimination with the ethics office at Merck in late March 2010.

About two weeks later, the suit states, Hayes was informed by Aerotek officials that her contract had been terminated because of “poor customer service and people skills.”

Hayes contends her firing was pretextual, and was actually due to her complaining about mistreatment.

Hayes filed a complaint of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on May 25, 2010.

The complaint was cross-filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

The lawsuit contains counts of wrongful termination, racial harassment and retaliation.

Hayes seeks lost and future wages, compensatory and punitive relief, attorney’s fees and other court costs.

A jury trial has been demanded.

 

The federal case number is 2:12-cv-01994-JS.

 

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