Posted April 28th, 2016.
David Gialanella, New Jersey Law Journal
A federal judge has preliminarily certified a class of Merck employees who claim the company paid less and otherwise unfairly treated female sales representatives by virtue of a 2011 reorganization.
U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp of the District of New Jersey on April 27 granted a plaintiff motion, which entitles the suit to proceed to the discovery phase in order to determine whether the putative class members are indeed similarly situated.
“The information submitted by plaintiffs shows that the sales representatives had similar responsibilities; that named plaintiffs were paid less than some allegedly similarly situated males; and that compensation decisions, although based in part on input from some direct managers, were finalized by a central, common office,” Shipp said, noting that the plaintiffs also submitted an expert’s report addressing pay disparity among Merck sales representatives.
Shipp added that the plaintiffs “met their burden by making a modest factual showing that a nexus exists between the manner in which defendant’s alleged policy affected them and the manner in which it affected other employees.”
As for Merck’s argument that the plaintiffs aren’t similarly situated because decisions on their pay were made by individual managers rather than based on a central policy, the judge called it “premature.”
The five named female plaintiffs claim they were passed over or demoted to the benefit of less-qualified male counterparts.
The suit asserts numerous counts, including one under the federal Equal Pay Act—a section of the Fair Labor Standards Act.