The Pharma “Boys’ Club” Is Alive & Well! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

In a setback for Merck, a federal judge has allowed five former and current sales reps to proceed with a lawsuit claiming they suffered sex discrimination. Specifically, the women allege in their lawsuit, which seeks class-action status and $250 million in damages, that the drug maker permitted discriminatory and disparate pay and promotion policies, and allowed for a hostile work environment.

Among the allegations: Kelli Smith, who was a rep for nine years, claims she faced hostility from her manager after she became pregnant and went on maternity leave. And she was told by her bosses that a decision to demote her to the same rank as entry-level reps, as well as deny her an award, was due to the timing of her baby and maternity leave, according to court documents.

Kandice Bross, meanwhile, alleged that Merck fostered a “boys’ club” culture. She claims her manager admitted her salary “stuck out like a sore thumb” relative to the salaries of other reps in her region. Even after a “slight” increase, Bross claims she made “significantly less” than her male counterparts. Bross also alleges Merck pays male reps more because they are “breadwinners.”