Bayer Loses Bid to Bar Class Action in Sex-Bias Lawsuit

U.S. units of German drugmaker Bayer AG failed to prevent eight women from pursuing a group lawsuit claiming the company discriminated in pay and promotions, and showed bias based on pregnancy and family responsibilities.

A judge today denied Bayer’s request to bar the case from being considered for a class-action, a decision that will be made later in the litigation. The complaint, filed in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, claims women endure “disregard and indifference for concerns or complaints about discrimination and sexual harassment pervades every corner of the company.”

The women, suing under the U.S. Equal Pay Act, cited promotions and disparities in pay compared with men in similar positions to survive Bayer’s motion to dismiss, U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh ruled. He also said the women met their burden so far in showing Bayer may have violated Title VII of the U.S. Civil Right Act of 1964.

The complaint “as a whole sufficiently shows that female employees felt adverse effects at work especially in terms of opportunities for promotion and the privilege of maternity leave, despite the existence of facially neutral policies,” Cavanaugh ruled on March 30.

The women sued Pittsburgh-based Bayer Corp., as well as Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, Bayer Healthcare Consumer Care, and 12 individuals. A spokesman for Bayer, Bryan Iams, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the ruling.

“What the defendants were asking the court was premature,” said Katherine Kimpel, an attorney at Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP who represents the women. “They were trying to get rid of the class-action portion of the case, and they lost it at this stage.”

The case is Victoria Barghout v. Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, 11-cv-1576, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).

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