Former Lilly Employees File Suit That Claims Racial Discrimination

April 21, 2006 ( - A class action race discrimination complaint was filed against pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co. in an Indiana US District Court over allegations that the firm's African American employees are treated differently than white employees in pay and promotional opportunities.

The plaintiffs claim that pay for African American employees is less than their white peers, and that white employees were more often groomed for promotions and bonuses than their African American peers, according to a press release. The suit asks the court to enter a judgment awarding plaintiffs back pay and other loss of income and benefits, and compensatory and punitive damages to be determined by a jury

One plaintiff, Cassandra Welch, worked her way up through administrative positions in Lilly’s finance department, while serving on executive management project teams. In late 1999 Lilly was promoted to a higher-level position in Indiana, where she claims she was paid well below what she was promised as a business consultant, while her white peers were paid higher.

Welch said her effort to got through the internal process brought no relief to the issue, and was then told her position would be eliminated and she would have to compete for another position within the company. She was assigned a new position, but still without the pay she was promised, and then was fired, she alleges, on the false terms that she altered an email that had nothing to do with the company.

The second plaintiff, Raynard Tyson, who spent five years as a sales representative for Lilly in North Carolina, claims he did not get the pay and promotions that were given to his white colleagues, despite Tyson’s high sales performance. After Tyson’s filing of an internal EEO complaint prompted a “thorough investigation” that voided his claim of racial discrimination, he left for another job.

“I proved my ability to sell product for Lilly better than several people who were paid more and were promoted ahead of me,” Tyson said in his claim with the district court. “A company that allows its managers to favor one race over another needs to change. I am bringing this in the hope that it will help the company open the full range of opportunities to its African American employees.”

Charges by other class members are currently pending at the EEOC, according to a news release about the suit filing.