Bayer’s US business faces a potential group lawsuit from eight female employees claiming that “sexual harassment pervades every corner of the company”.
The German company lost a legal bid to prevent the plaintiffs from pursuing a class action rather than individual lawsuits.
According to the complaint, made under the US Equal Pay Act, Bayer discriminated against women in terms of pay and promotions and displayed bias in its approach to pregnancy and childcare responsibilities.
In addition to these systemic problems, the complaint said, there was “disregard and indifference for concerns or complaints about discrimination” and a culture of sexual harassment.
New Jersey District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh ruled that the complaint “sufficiently shows that female employees felt adverse effects at work especially in terms of opportunities for promotion and the privilege of maternity leave, despite the existence of facially neutral policies.”
The lawsuit is directed at Bayer’s global organisation as well as its US business and 12 individuals.
The decision as to whether a class action will take place will be made later in the litigation process.
Katherine Kimpel, an attorney at Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP, said: “What the defendants were asking the court was premature. They were trying to get rid of the class-action portion of the case, and they lost it at this stage.”