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Invitrogen Sued by Former Employee for Sexual Harassment, Gender Discrimination

NEW YORK, Jan. 14 (GenomeWeb News) - A former employee of Invitrogen late last year sued the company for alleged sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and creating a "hostile work environment," according to legal documents obtained by GenomeWeb News.


The former employee, salesperson Danielle Morais, claims in her suit that sometime before 2003 an employee of a company to which she sells Invitrogen products had harassed her, including making late-night phone calls and stalking, after Morais declined "a number" of requests by this employee to see him socially.


Morais, whom Invitrogen fired on Sept. 20, 2004, claims in her suit that Invitrogen failed to help her deal with the alleged harassment, and that she began to be treated differently at work and was discriminated against after she had notified Invitrogen of her experiences. The suit states that Invitrogen said the firing was a "business decision" prompted by Morais' decreasing sales, and not a "personal" decision.


The suit claims that Morais was fired because Invitrogen "retaliated" against "her opposition to unlawful employment tactics." It also states that Invitrogen "acted with malice and/or reckless indifferenceto Morais' rights.


The case, filed in United States District Court in the Southern District of New York on Dec. 22, 2004, claims Morais will "suffer irreparable injury, emotional distress and other compensable damage" unless the court "grants relief, according to the court filing. Morais seeks "injunctive relief" and compensatory and punitive damages.


Participants in the case are scheduled to appear in a pre-trial conference with Judge Laura Taylor Swain on April 8.


The suit describes an employee who had worked for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and later Progenics Pharmaceuticals, both Invitrogen customers served by Morais, who had allegedly stalked Morais. The complaint also said the employee made lewd late-night telephone calls to Morais and said "inappropriate" things to her at other times. It was not clear whether this individual is still employed by Progenics.


Morais claims in her suit that these events led her to seek help from Invitrogen's human resources department in January 2003. She said in the suit that soon after she took that step her manager began to grade her work using a "different standard" from the kind he used on his male employees and his female employees, and that he began to treat Morais "even worse" than before." The suit also states that this manager "treated [the women on his staff] with less respect" than he treated the men.


The manager was eventually replaced, though the suit did not provide a reason. The suit did not say whether there was a correlation between the sexual harassment allegations against the employee and Morais' alleged harassment and discrimination at work.


In the suit, Morais claims that even though her work was equivalent to the work of her colleagues at Invitrogen, the company fired her.


Officials at Invitrogen and Progenics did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. Regeneron had no comment.

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