Tuesday, June 7, 2011
They had the same job classification, did the same work, had the same history with the company, but the company paid women an average of $1,700 less than men. Sounds like a classical equal pay kind of case right out of the 1970s? Sure does, but it was apparently how things worked at at least one AstraZeneca office as recently as last May.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs announced yesterday that it had reached a settlement with the pharmaceutical company to pay $250,000 to 124 women who worked at the company's Philadelphia Business Center in Wayne, Pa. The action resolves a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor in May 2010 alleging that the company discriminated against female sales specialists by paying them salaries that were, on average, $1,700 less than their male counterparts.
The OFCCP conducted a scheduled compliance review of the business center in 2002 and found that AstraZeneca had violated Executive Order 11246 by failing to meet its obligations as a federal contractor to ensure employees were paid fairly without regard to sex, race, color, religion and national origin. AstraZeneca holds a contract valued at more than $2 billion with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide pharmaceutical products to hospitals and medical centers around the country.
Additionally, in accordance with a consent decree, the company has agreed to work with OFCCP to conduct a statistical analysis of the base pay of 415 individuals employed full time in two additional categories of pharmaceutical sales specialists in thirteen states and the District of Columbia. If the analysis concludes that female employees continue to be underpaid, the company will adjust salaries accordingly.
It's an interesting development in what seems to be a wave of pay-related and sex discrimination actions against pharmaceutical companies. See this post at Overtime Law Blog, for example, on the circuit split and SCOTUS denial of cert on classification of outside sales reps, and here for the recent sex discrimination settlement involving Novartis. Maybe women are tired of putting up with poor conditions and are starting to file complaints in greater numbers, or maybe pharmaceutical company practices are coming under greater scrutiny as part of the study of what is driving rising healthcare costs. It would be interesting to know whether this really is a trend or it just happens to be what the news is focused on lately.
Hat tip: Pat Schaeffer