Pfizer sued by former Pa. employee claiming sex discrimination, wrongful termination
A suburban Philadelphia woman claims in a federal discrimination suit filed against New York-based drugmaker Pfizer that she was forced to give oral sex to a supervisor during a training getaway, and was eventually fired because the company deemed the relationship between her and her male colleague inappropriate. Lisa Gault, who resides in Collegeville, Montgomery County, began working for Pfizer at its Collegeville location back in the fall of 2009, when the company acquired her prior employer for whom she was working as a contractor, according to the plaintiff’s complaint, which was filed Dec. 14 at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia. In the summer of 2010, the lawsuit states, which was a few months before her contract was set to expire, Gault applied for a full-time position with Pfizer as manager of medical writing. The associate director of the Medical Writing Group, a male who was in charge of hiring for the open position, and for whom Gault had worked at her previous job, told Gault he would do what he could to help her get the position, the suit shows. Gault was eventually offered the job in October 2010 and began full-time employment with Pfizer on Nov. 1 of that year, reporting directly to the hiring manager, who is not identified by name in the litigation; only Pfizer is listed as a defendant. The complaint goes on to allege that throughout her employment, Gault was subjected to discriminatory conduct because of her gender, which included many incidents of inappropriate conduct on the part of the male hiring manager. One example of the conduct given in the lawsuit was the alleged advances made by the manager during training at Pfizer’s Connecticut facility back in early December 2010. When the hiring manager arrived on the second day of training, he first insisted on taking Gault out to dinner, the suit states. The man then told colleagues that he and Gault had plans together to ensure they would be alone. The manager then pressured Gault to let him come up to her hotel room, a request granted by Gault because she worried about her job security, the complaint alleges. It was at this time that the man began touching intimate parts of Gault’s body, he took her hand and put it down his pants, and then he requested her to give him oral sex, which she did, but only because she worried about the future of her position, the lawsuit says. The suit then goes on to offer various other examples of similar conduct on the part of the male hiring manager. In March of 2011, the complaint states, the man told the plaintiff to tell superiors that the two were not having a sexual relationship, and that they were just friends, the suit says. During a meeting with a supervisor, Gault was treated in a hostile manner by the man, who informed Gault that someone at Pfizer had complained of a relationship between the two. After the meeting, the hiring manager told Gault that he had lied to the supervisor by telling the man that he and Gault had a relationship before she got her current job reporting to him, but not since that time, the complaint states. The following month, the company’s director of employee relations met with Gault, accusing Gault of being in an inappropriate relationship with the hiring manager. Gault was then fired from her job, supposedly for violating Pfizer’s conflict of interest policy. The lawsuit claims that the company’s reason for terminating Gault was pretextual, and that she was actually fired because of her gender. “Defendant failed to prevent or address the discriminatory conduct referred to herein and further failed to take corrective and remedial measures to make the workplace free of discriminatory conduct,” the lawsuit states. The complaint accuses Pfizer of violating Gault’s federal civil rights and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. Gault seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and litigation costs. Gault is being represented by Philadelphia attorneys Stephen G. Console and Caren N. Gurmankin. The federal case number is 2:12-cv-07009-JP.