A 19-year career at Merck came to an end after Kerri Colicchio had her third child. She was the Senior Director of Global Operational Excellence in 2005 when she announced her pregnancy. And she was promptly informed, according to her lawsuit, that she would not be promoted to vice president because of a planned extended maternity leave.
When Colicchio returned from pregnancy leave, she found a male external hire in place as the V.P. of her department. She claims that she was discouraged from returning to work and encouraged to instead stay home with her children. She also claims, in her pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, that she was told that she was no longer a good fit for the company after her three pregnancies.
Colicchio was fired in 2007.
Merck originally attempted to defend terminating Colicchio by claiming a company reorganization as well as asserting that her firing was too far removed (a year) from her maternity leave.
But the court did not agree with Merck. It found that there was question as to whether Colicchio was passed over for a promotion because of her pregnancy as well as that her job responsibilities were altered by management because she took maternity leave.
Her lawsuit against the drug maker will continue in federal court in New Jersey. Should she win on her pregnancy bias claims, Colicchio may be eligible for an award of punitive damages in addition to any back- or front-pay she would be owed.
Source: Courthouse News Service, “Merck Must Face Trial on Pregnancy Bias Claims,” December 3, 2012