The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Forest Pharm Gender Discrimination Lawsuit Expands to IL

The $100 million lawsuit started with the claims of four Pennsylvania women. Each claimed that they were paid less than their male counterparts. Some claimed that discrimination occurred after having a child or taking maternity leave. One claimed good old fashioned sexual harassment. The claims of these four women, filed in July, were joined on Monday by the claims of women in California, Kentucky, and of course, Illinois, reports Workforce.com.

Though we don't have specifics on the new allegations, we have plenty of information on the original lawsuit, thanks to Pharmalot. One of the original plaintiffs received a lower evaluation and pay increase than previous years after she took maternity leave. Another was denied a promotion while she was pregnant and also received a lower pay raise than previous years after the pregnancy.

A third plaintiff received negative job evaluations after seeking an alternate schedule to care for a child with epilepsy. She was later falsely accused of violating expense report policies before being exonerated.

The fourth initial plaintiff arguably had it even worse. She was at a social function in Fort Worth, Texas when her sales manager stood behind her, pointed, and mouthed to another manager that "you need to f--- her." Later, after she went to the restroom, that same manager placed a stool at his waist level and made pelvic thrusts and other gestures while expressing that he would "f--- the s--- out of her" and asked why no one had yet "f----d her".

When she went to human resources, with a male witness, both her and the witness were placed on probation for "performance issues".

All four eventually resigned.

Though none were fired, staying at a workplace where one previously suffered discrimination is often unfeasible and uncomfortable, especially where the allegedly discriminatory management remains in place.

The legalese for this type of forced quitting is constructive discharge. Obviously, the "forced to quit by circumstances" claim is something that could be easily abused, and often is. The conditions that lead to the discharge must be so severe that continuing to work for the employer is no longer feasible. In these cases, the employer is as liable as they would have been for firing the employee outright for an illegal reason.

A successful wrongful termination claim, constructive or not, typically means an award of past wages, future wages, and punitive damages if the conduct was severe enough. If the accusations of these four women, the others recently added, and the claims of company-wide gender pay discrimination prove to be true, that $100 million requested in the lawsuit might actually be on the lower end of a possible verdict.

Related Resources: