AstraZeneca to pay $250,000 to 124 women for sex discrimination

UK biopharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, will pay $250,000 to 124 women who were subjected to pay discrimination while working at the company's Philadelphia Business Centre in the US.

The action resolves a lawsuit filed by the US Department of Labour in May 2010 alleging that the company discriminated against female sales specialists by paying them salaries that were, on average, $1,700 lower than their male counterparts.

The department conducted a scheduled compliance review of the business centre in 2002 and found that AstraZeneca had violated the law by failing to meet its obligations as a federal contractor to ensure employees were paid fairly without regard to sex, race, color, religion and national origin.

AstraZeneca, the world's seventh largest pharmaceutical firm, holds a contract valued at more than $2 billion with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to provide pharmaceutical products to hospitals and medical centres around the country.

"Forty-eight years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, women are still fighting for fundamental fairness when it comes to how we are paid," said OFCCP director Patricia Shiu, a member of President Obama's National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force.

"I am glad AstraZeneca finally has agreed to pay its employees what they've earned. More importantly, we look forward to working with the company's management to make sure this does not happen again to anyone who works for AstraZeneca," she added.

Under a consent decree and order, the company also agreed to analyze employee salaries in 13 other states and Washington, D.C., to make sure women are not being underpaid.

If the company fails to comply with the consent decree, it may be subject to sanctions, including cancellation of its current federal contract and debarment from acquiring future ones.