Department of Labor investigation finds Boehringer’s female employees were being paid less than their male colleagues.
After undergoing a probe by the Department of Labor, a unit of Boehringer Ingelheim agreed to pay more than $379,000 in back pay and interest to female employees who alleged they were paid less than their male colleagues. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs had claimed the wage discrimination occurred at the Animal Health unit following an internal audit conducted in 2015 when Boehringer Ingelheim was acting as a federal contractor.
Seventy-five women employed as scientists, technicians and technical administrators in a production area at an animal vaccine center in St. Joseph, Missouri, were involved in the suit. The settlement will allow each of them to receive funds between $1,000 and $12,000, depending on how they were personally impacted by the skewed pay structure.
The Labor Department indicated that Boehringer “worked cooperatively to resolve the matter and, under the agreement, is taking steps to avoid discrimination by providing training to managers, supervisors, and company officials.” At the same time, though, the agency also noted “the drug maker did not admit liability and denied the allegations.”
A Boehringer spokesperson submitted a statement indicating it “does not agree with the OFCCP’s allegations that, while unintentional, there was a gender-based wage discrepancy for these 75 employees.” She also noted the OFCCP “has not made any additional allegations since the audit was conducted.”
There have been many lawsuits alleging wage discrimination by drug makers in recent years. The majority of manufacturers have had to cut their workforces and make other less-than-desirable decisions to recoup costs, which has left them open to discrimination charges. Among the companies that settled lawsuits were Merck (MRK), Novartis (NVS), Daiichi Sankyo and Allergan, which is now owned by AbbVie (ABBV).
And drug companies aren’t the only ones feeling the pressures of COVID-19, making the decision to cut jobs and open themselves up to lawsuits. In July, the popular gym, Life Time, was hit with a filing seeking class action status that claimed employees are owed substantial back pay for hours worked without compensation. The suit was filed one day after Life Time executives notified the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development it would need to lay off about 300 employees “because of economic pressures it faces from gym closures due to the coronavirus outbreak.”
Alicia Schaeffer, a former Life Time group yoga instructor, filed the complaint, suing her employer for unpaid work she and other instructors were allegedly told to do before and after they taught classes. She filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Life Time Inc. claiming that for “about eight years when she worked for Life Time’s Bloomington North fitness facility she and other hourly group fitness instructors were unpaid for work they did outside of their official class times.” The suit contends, “In addition to teaching 60 minutes of class time, plaintiff’s job as group fitness instructor required her to perform work that preceded and followed each of her yoga classes. All group fitness instructors are similarly required to perform pre- and post-class work.”
Amid the ongoing opioid litigation, many drug makers have been put an especially compromising position, having to pay settlement fees and undergo bankruptcy proceedings. This has led to further cost-cutting measures which will likely open the companies up to additional monetary allegations.