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Lay Us Off, Will You? Hundreds Axed at Pfizer

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Hundreds of Pfizer (PFE)’s pharmaceutical sales reps signed on to a class action lawsuit demanding overtime pay in part because they were laid off following the company’s acquisition of Wyeth. Plaintiffs in the suit asked a New York federal judge last week to certify the suit as a class action in three states: New York, California and Illinois.

The case is significant because Pfizer is the biggest drug company in the U.S. and thus the litigation affects more reps than any other.

The suit has been trundling along quietly since it was filed in 2006 by lead plaintiff Anthony Coultrip, who worked for Pfizer in Missouri between 2003 and 2005. In 2008, a judge denied Pfizer’s motion to dismiss the case. Then in March of this year, the Supreme Court refused to hear a different case leaving in place rulings that required drug companies to pay overtime to sales reps who work more than 40 hours a week, except in a small number of jurisdictions. That ruling may pave the way for the Pfizer plaintiffs. In the first few months of this year, hundreds of reps signed on to the case, the court docket shows.

Pharmaceutical companies that may have to pay backpay:
  • Novartis
  • Merck (Schering-Plough)
  • Boehringer Ingelheim

Pending overtime cases:

  • Pfizer - New York
  • Pfizer - Tennessee
  • Pfizer - New Jersey
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb - New York
  • Abbott Labs - Illinois
  • AstraZeneca - Delaware
  • Takeda - Illinois

Existing settlements favoring OT for reps:
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan

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Growth in women's share of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations declined to 27% in 2011from a high of 34% in 1990. While women make up nearly half of the workforce, they were 26% of the STEM workforce in 2011.

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