Merck & Co., Inc. Must Face Trial on Pregnancy Bias Claims

Published: Dec 04, 2012

A woman who says Merck fired her for taking a third maternity leave can sue the drugmaker for discrimination, but not retaliation, a federal judge ruled. In a 2008 complaint, Kerri Colicchio claimed that Merck & Co. set out to dismantle her career when she became pregnant for the third time during her 19-year career with the pharmaceutical company. She claimed that Merck systematically discriminates and retaliates against pregnant female employees who take maternity leave. Colicchio started working for Merck in 1998 and was eventually promoted to senior director of its Global Operational Excellence department in 2005. When she became pregnant with her third child in 2005, then-senior vice president of global services J. Chris Scalet allegedly told Colicchio that she would not be promoted to vice president of her division because of her plans to take a six-month maternity leave. Merck hired a lesser qualified executive outside the company for the position in 2006, around the time Colicchio returned to work, the complaint says. Colicchio claimed that Merck delegated her responsibilities to a male executive with less experience because she took an additional leave to care for her newborn son. She says Merck vice president Sigma Laurel LaBauve became abusive to her during meetings and tried to drive her out of the company. LaBauve "voluntarily" told Colicchio "that she had been there a long time and was no longer 'a fit,'" according to the complaint. LaBauve also allegedly discouraged Colicchio from returning to work because "babies need their mammas." Colicchio said Merck fired her in 2007.

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