CAMDEN — A federal judge today turned back an effort by lawyers for Merck & Co. to dismiss a $100 million lawsuit filed by female sales representatives who claim the drug maker fosters a “boys club” that rewards male “breadwinners” with promotions and demotes women after they return from pregnancy leave.
U.S. District Court Judge Joel Pisano did not rule on the merits of the class action lawsuit but said the women have to date raised issues that are “plausible.”
“While it is too premature to determine whether plaintiffs have significant proof to suffice under this standard, plaintiffs have certainly pled sufficient allegations regarding defendants’ promotion practices and subjective decisionmaking such that plainiffs’ class claims are plausible,” Pisano wrote.
In a statement, Merck said it will continue to defend itself against the allegations.
“We are disappointed in the court’s decision, but remain confident that this case lacks merit,” the statement said. “Merck will continue to vigorously defend itself, and remains fully committed to providing equal employment opportunities for all employees. Merck has a strong anti-discrimination policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of characteristics, such as gender, pregnancy, race, age, disability and sexual orientation.”
The lawsuit was filed in May 2013 by five female Merck employees on behalf of others who may find themselves in a similar situation.