Court approves an $8.2 settlement in Daiichi Sankyo Sex Discrimination Case

Lucie Rivière

On February 11, 2016, the District Court for the Northern District of California approved an $8.2M class action settlement in a sex discrimination case between the Japanese pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo, Inc. (“DSI”) and nearly 1,400 of its female employees.

On February 11, 2013, Plaintiffs Sara Wellens, Kelly Jensen, Jacqueline Pena, Bernice Giovanni, Lara Hollinger, and Jennifer Bennie filed a class action complaint against DSI on behalf of themselves and all current and former DSI female sales representatives and first-level sales managers. Plaintiffs alleged gender discrimination, including unequal pay, benefits, and reduced career advancement opportunities. Plaintiffs brought claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and California State Law.

According to the complaint, DSI’s glass ceiling is indisputable; female employees hold rank-and-file sales positions while males occupy all tiers of management and DSI systemically paid female sales employees less than it paid similarly situated male sales employees. Additionally, the complaint alleges that DSI actively discourages female sales employees from having children while working at DSI. DSI allegedly cautioned female sales employees of childbearing age against committing “career suicide” by becoming pregnant or taking maternity leave. Ms. Wellens contends that despite her top-ranked performance for the company, she received lower merit-based increases, bonuses and other compensation than her male counterparts. Ms. Jensen also claims that after the male sales leadership team learned of her pregnancy, she was prohibited from marketing of the profitable cholesterol and diabetes drug Welchol to doctors. Ms. Jensen’s pay also was cut after she returned from maternity leave.

On May 22, 2014, Judge William H. Orrick conditionally certified the class action. After conditional certification on October 16, 2015, the class action settlement agreement was definitely approved on February 11, 2016. The settlement covers all female sales force employees who are or were employed in a sales representative and/or first level district manager role in California or in the United States for at least one day between April 16, 2011 and October 16, 2015.

The settlement – reached after two years of intense litigation activity— provides for “significant monetary relief to [the] 1 ,400 women represented by the lawsuit in addition to changes in Company policy that will greatly benefit working women and mothers at Daiichi Sankyo now and years to come,” said Felicia Medina, Plaintiffs’ attorney. Under the settlement, DSI will set aside $200,000 to implement changes to its employment policies and practices; $4.6 million will be paid into an interest bearing Class Settlement Fund; the remaining $3.6 million will be used to reimburse costs and expenses of the litigation, pay Class Counsel’s fees as awarded by the Court, pay service payments to the Class Representatives and lawsuit participants, and pay for the administration of the settlement process. The settlement also requires DSI’s district managers to undergo training to cease discriminating, harassing, and retaliatory behavior. This training will be required upon hiring or promotion, and every two years a manager is on the job.

“While we do not agree with the plaintiffs’ allegations in the lawsuit, final approval by the court of this settlement provides Daiichi Sankyo Inc. with the opportunity to move forward and maintain our focus on our business and fulfilling our mission to deliver safe and effective medicines to patients,” said Daiichi spokeswoman Kimberly Wix.

If you feel your employer treats you less well because of your gender, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.