Bayer Accused of “Mommy Tracking” in Gender Discrimination and Employment Suit

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New York, NYThe Bayer Corporation, a global pharmaceutical behemoth, is accused of discriminating against a pregnant female employee and sidelining another female executive once vaulted as a star employee in a gender discrimination and employment law suit.

In the documents filed, Dr. Irene Laurora accuses Bayer of “Mommy Tracking” an employee and alleges that the company dealt her out of a job for complaining about a situation she thought a violation of the law.

“Mommy Tracking” refers to the idea that pregnant women might have maternal priorities that could affect their commitment to the job.

In her statement of claim, Dr. Irene Laurora, represented by the Douglas Wigdor law firm in New York, alleges that she “faced increasing retaliation” after she stood up for the rights of a pregnant woman on her staff who was permanently replaced by a male colleague after the woman made it known she was planning to take maternity leave during a special multi-year project.

At the beginning of 2015, Dr. Laurora specifically chose a woman in her department, who happened to be pregnant, for a prominent role in a special 2 to 3 year project.

Shortly after appointing the woman to the job, Dr. Laurora’s boss, John O’Mullane, a senior VP with Bayer, decided to replace the woman with a male employee on a permanent basis.

According to the statement of claim, “When Dr. Laurora’s direct report questioned the basis of this decision, O’Mullane explicitly cited the fact that the female employee intended to take FMLA-protected leave for her pregnancy as ostensibly providing evidence that she would be incapable of fulfilling the requirements of the job.”

Dr. Laurora then wrote a letter to O’Mullane, “describing his decision to strip her colleague of a very important position as ‘inappropriate and disrespectful’.”

Dr. Laurora, who is a medical doctor, began working with Bayer as a VP of Analgesics, Cough, Cold & Foot Care and New Products in 2007. According to the statement of claim, Dr. Laurora “was given outstanding performance reviews at Bayer and routinely receiving ratings of ‘Exceeds Expectations’ which is one of the company’s highest review ratings”.

In 2012, Bayer gave Dr. Laurora its Working Mother of Year award for her advocacy on behalf of parents with special needs children and her role in the company’s Women’s Leadership Initiative and admitted her to the company’s exclusive Management Excellence program.

However, according to the statement of claim, after Dr. Laurora complained about O’Mullane’s decision he began to retaliate against her. Her performance rating was downgraded, she was denied access to leadership training programs, and her position was eliminated in a restructuring plan.

She was rejected as a candidate for another position at Bayer and when she asked why O’Mullane said, according to the statement of claim, “You don’t have it. I can’t quite put my finger on it but you don’t have what I am looking for.”

Three years earlier she was a bright light on the Bayer fast track. Now she was dud.

Human Resources at Bayer offered Dr. Laurora another job but it was a demotion with reduced compensation.

She declined and she was effectively terminated.

In 2011, Bayer was sued by five other female executives (Barghout et al. v. Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals et. al., 2:11-cv-01576).

The women alleged that the Bayer employees and managers “made repeated comments about not wanting to work with women who were, or were about to become, mothers”, according the documents filed in the Dr. Laurora case. The women experienced retaliation and negative performance reviews.

(Laurora V Bayer Corporation and John O’Mallane - Case 2:16-cv-09041-ES-JAD Document 1 Filed 12/07/16)

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