By Martha Graybow
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Four women sales workers in the United States have sued drugmakerSanofi-Aventis for $300 million, contending they were denied promotions and paid less than their male counterparts.
An earlier version of the gender discrimination lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan in March by one woman. A revised complaint was filed on Wednesday that includes new claims by three more plaintiffs.
The women are current or former employees of the French pharmaceutical company's U.S. unit, which is based in Bridgewater, New Jersey. Sanofi, the world's third-largest drug maker, markets medicines, including sleeping pill Ambien and blood thinner Plavix.
The suit, which seeks class-action status, names the parent company and the U.S. unit as defendants. A lawyer for the women said the potential class of plaintiffs could total 6,000 to 7,000 current and former female sales employees.
"The essential allegations are that women are not paid the same amount as men and that women are not promoted at the same rate as men," said the women's attorney, David Sanford.
A spokesman for Sanofi's U.S. unit, Marc Greene, said that the company is "confident that the suit lacks merit and that all of our employees are treated fairly and in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws."
Sanford's firm, Sanford Wittels & Heisler, also represents female plaintiffs in a discrimination case against a U.S. unit of drug company Novartis AG. A federal judge in Manhattan earlier this month ruled the lawsuit, which seeks $200 million in damages, can proceed as a class-action.
According to the Sanofi complaint, the women plaintiffs lost out on promotions for which they were well qualified, while men on their teams were quickly promoted. The women also contend they were subjected to sexually hostile work environments.
The complaint contends that one woman, the only female on a team of eight sales representatives, was the target of misogynistic slurs, including lewd comments about her breasts. The woman's manager never reprimanded any of the men on her team about the remarks, the lawsuit says.
Another woman, according to allegations in the complaint, said that during a sales meeting, her manager took the men on their sales team to a strip club. On another trip, the woman contends, her manager announced a male team member wanted to see one of his women colleagues in a bikini sometime during the trip.