Just a few months after paying $2.4 million in damages to a former sales manager who alleged retaliation for whistleblowing, AstraZeneca is back in hot water over the way it treats employees — and once again, it’s going to cost the company.
The British pharma has agreed to pay $560,000 in back pay and interest to resolve alleged race- and gender-based pay discrimination affecting 318 female and Hispanic employees.
The allegations surfaced after a routine federal compliance investigation found that AstraZeneca underpaid 23 Hispanic employees in primary care sales, and 295 women in specialty care sales from Oct. 1, 2015, to Sept. 30, 2016, according to the US Department of Labor.
“The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to combating pay discrimination and ensuring fair compensation for all employees,” Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs acting regional director Michele Hodge said in a statement. “Federal contractors are required by law to comply with all equal employment opportunity regulations.”
During the pandemic, AstraZeneca struck a $1.2 billion contract with the Department of the Army to support its Covid-19 vaccine development — an effort which has, so far, not turned up an FDA-authorized shot.
In addition to shelling out the back pay and interest, AstraZeneca has agreed to remedy current pay disparities, and identify an individual responsible for monitoring enforcement of Executive Order 11246, which prohibits race and gender discrimination by federal contractors. The company also has to submit progress reports with compensation data for at least the next two years.
“While AstraZeneca does not agree with OFCCP’s findings, it is pleased to have resolved this matter related to allegations from the 2016 audit,” a spokesperson told Endpoints News. “AstraZeneca is committed to fair and equitable employment practices, and has implemented appropriate measures to ensure the continuation of equal employment opportunity and equitable compensation policies and practices for all employees.”
The news comes about three months after a federal jury in Oregon determined that AstraZeneca violated the state’s whistleblower statute, awarding former sales manager Suzanne Ivie $2.4 million in damages. Ivie testified that she was fired after repeatedly warning AstraZeneca that an executive was planning to market anti-inflammatory drugs for off-label use.
“Suzanne alerted AstraZeneca to bad behavior and, instead of fixing the problem, the company punished her,” Anita Mazumdar Chambers, a principal of the law firm representing Ivie, said in a statement.
Ivie’s complaint came several years after the pharma paid $520 million back in 2010 to resolve allegations that it illegally marketed the antipsychotic drug Seroquel for off-label use.