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Pfizer faces gender discrimination suit from Pennsylvania employee

The drug company Pfizer has been sued by a former employee who worked at the company's offices in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. The former employee says that she was sexually harassed by her hiring manager started right after she was hired on as a full time employee after her work for the company as a contractor.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court, alleges that after she was hired, the man who was her hiring manager asked for sexual favors and suggested to other employees that the two were involved. The woman says that she complied with his requests for fear of being fired and that she endured many incidents of unwanted advances and inappropriate conduct.

She was wrongfully terminated following a meeting with a different supervisor who said that another employee complained about the relationship. The reason ultimately given for her termination was a violation of the company's conflict of interest policy.

As we discussed in a recent post, employers are directly liable for the conduct of supervisors, and in this case it is clear that the man was the direct supervisor of the employee alleging harassment. As such, the lawsuit doesn't actually name the person who allegedly harassed the employee, but focuses on culpability for the company that is responsible for his conduct.

The woman says that she was wrongfully terminated based on her gender alone, and that the conflict of interest policy violation was only a pretext for the firing. In situations where two employees are accused of similar misconduct and only one is terminated, it's wise to consider whether bias played a role the in the decision to fire one and not the other. If there was biased involved in that decision then it could be a case of discrimination and the wrongfully terminated employee may be able to recover if they were discriminated against for an illegal reason such as gender or race.

Source: Pennsylvania Record, "Pfizer sued by former Pa. employee claiming sex discrimination, wrongful termination," Jon Campisi, Dec. 20, 2012.

Information about gender discrimination is available on our Pittsburgh employment law site.

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