Monday, 16 August 2010

Novo Nordisk Retaliation Court Decision Sends Wrong Message to Employees

A former sales rep for Novo Nordisk has lost the appeal of her retaliation lawsuit. California employment lawyers believe it's an unfortunate ruling, and sends the wrong message to millions of women who work in the pharmaceutical industry.

The case involves Vivian Garriga, a former sales rep at Novo Nordisk. In 2007, Garriga was assigned to a new supervisor, Brian Taylor. Taylor soon began a pattern of sexual harassment that included leering Garriga, and making offensive sexual comments. At a meeting, Taylor, much to Garriga’s amazement, started a game of “which employee would you most like to have sex with?” In her lawsuit, Garriga claims that he frequently made sexual comments, spoke to her about sex frequently, and called Garriga and one of her partners sexually demeaning names. She also claimed there was verbal bullying that was designed to drive Garriga to tears.

Garriga soon filed a sexual harassment complaint against Taylor. Two weeks after Taylor got wind of that complaint, she was put on a coaching program for low performance employees. The coaching program actually had her participating in more one-on-one time with Taylor.

Soon after the complaint, Garriga and her work partner Shannon Duffy, agreed to host a dinner for a physician and his wife as well as their boyfriends, which the two women paid for. It was a violation of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) rules, and as soon as Taylor found out about it, he recommended to the Nordisk HR department that Garriga be fired. Garriga’s services were terminated.

Her retaliation lawsuit was first dismissed by a federal district court, and now, a federal appeals court has also upheld that ruling. According to the company, the fact that she paid for a non-educational dinner was a violation of PhRMA rules, and therefore, her termination was justified.

It seems like Nordisk has gotten away with excusing Taylor's harassment by finding a way to fire Garriga for a practice that is widespread in the pharmaceutical industry. There's no doubt that Garriga violated PhRMA rules, but as she said, she told Taylor about the dinner about 10 days before she was fired, and he seemed to have no problem with it.

It is the wrong message to send to male supervisors in the pharmaceutical industry - that it's okay to put on your most boorish behavior with female subordinates, as long as you can find a technicality on which you can get them fired when they complain of sexual harassment. It sends an even worse message to the thousands of women employed in this industry, who will now think twice before complaining about sexual harassment.

No comments:

Post a Comment