A former employee of Merck & Co. is suing the drugmaker in federal court over allegations that the defendant committed civil rights violations when it discharged the man after refusing to reassign the plaintiff to a position he had been promised.

Manuel Matos, who resides in Lansdale, Montgomery County, worked as a plumber and pipefitter for the pharmaceutical manufacturer from May 1999 until September 2007, making about $90,000-plus per year in the hourly union position, the complaint states.

That fall, a former supervisor recommended that Matos be promoted, after which the plaintiff accepted a management position as a production supervisor.

During the interview for that position, Matos was informed he would be making a base pay of $71,000-plus, as well as an additional $900 per month in a shift premium relating to his department, the suit states.

When he showed up for the new position, however, Matos was told that that specific department didn’t pay the shift premium, something Matos claims he was unaware of at the time.

Matos was placed on stress-related leave in April 2008 after being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, something he attributes to the situation at work, the lawsuit says.

The plaintiff’s doctor advised Matos that he could not return to his old department, and that Merck refused to place Matos in any other position with the company, something that led to Matos submitting his resignation.

The suit states that Matos was “effectively discharged” due to the company’s refusal to reassign him to another department.

Since November 2009, Matos has reapplied for nine different pipefitter/plumber positions within Merck, but he was told by a human resources representative that he would not even be considered for the positions, the complaint alleges.

Matos last applied for a job in early 2010.

The complaint alleges that the defendant has hired at least five pipefitter/plumbers “off the street rather than return Matos to his former position.”

The lawsuit says that Matos was not rehired by the company despite the fact that former associates had urged the defendant to bring Matos back aboard.

An internal investigation followed a complaint Matos made to Merck, the suit states, after which the plaintiff was told he could not be rehired due to the way he resigned and because of his failure to complete a management course, “which is inapplicable to a union position.”

Company officials also then “conveniently claimed” there were ongoing performance issues that it admitted to having never discussed with Matos.

“Merck now claims this is the legitimate business reason for which Mr. Matos could not return to a position as plumber/pipefitter, a position where he encountered no performance problems,” the complaint reads.

The lawsuit states that in his last performance evaluation, which was signed in March 2008, Matos received a perfect score of 100 percent.

The suit accuses Merck of violating the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Defendant’s unlawful and discriminatory acts have caused Plaintiff to suffer emotional distress, wage loss, monetary loss, personal humiliation, loss of self-esteem, mental anguish, sleeplessness, loss of pride in career, irritability, withdrawal from his social life, anxiety, stress, and embarrassment,” the suit states.

Matos seeks more than $150,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, in addition to interest, costs and attorney’s fees.

The suit was filed May 14 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Doylestown, Pa. attorney Sharon Gilbert Timm.

The federal case number is 2:13-cv-02648-JS. 

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