Bradenton woman files discrimination lawsuit against Quest

A Bradenton woman is among two Quest Diagnostics sales representatives who have filed a $100 million class-action federal lawsuit against the company that could affect “hundreds” of female Quest employees, an attorney for the women said Thursday.

Heather Traeger, who works in Quest’s Bradenton office, and Erin Beery, of Indianapolis, have accused the company of gender discrimination in the suit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J. The two women are employees of Quest’s Ameripath division, and their lawsuit seeks to extend to female sales representative who have been with Quest since Feb. 17, 2010.

“We hope this will send a message to other companies that female employees are not to be treated this way,” said Sharon Eubanks, one of several attorneys with Washington, D.C.’s Sanford Wittels and Heisler law firm, which is representing the two women. “The instances set forth here are pretty egregious.”

Quest officials said they had not been served with the lawsuit, nor had they seen a copy of it.

“Quest Diagnostics is an equal opportunity employer. We are proud to be routinely recognized as a top employer in communities around the U.S.,” the company said in a statement.

The suit contends that Quest, a Fortune 500 company, failed to correct discriminatory policies, practices and procedures that have an illegal, disparate impact on women. It alleges that high-ranking company officials and a male-dominated upper management foster an “old boys’ club” environment that forces women to work under less favorable circumstances than men and denies them equal advancement opportunities.

Eubanks said there is a clear pattern of male employees and women employees without primary child care responsibilities advancing more rapidly and to higher-paying jobs at Quest.

“The managers who are maintaining and promoting the current male-dominated management structure have a disproportionate impact on the promotion and compensation decisions that affect female sales reps,” Eubanks said.

She also said the environment at Quest “seems to be the type of environment that seems to foster workplace discrimination.” Eubanks cited situations of heavy drinking and vulgar language.

Several of the suit’s allegations involve a female superior, but Eubanks said that fact does not diminish the claims made by Traeger and Beery.

“Just as race discrimination can be visited upon people of the same race, women can discriminate against women,” she said.

In addition to seeking class-action status, Traeger and Beery also filed individual claims of disparate pay, differential treatment, gender hostility and retaliation in the workplace, among other allegations.

Quest Diagnostics employs approximately 42,000 people worldwide and operates clinical laboratories in most major metropolitan areas of the U.S., according to spokeswoman Wendy Bost. Revenues in 2010 were about $7.4 billion; 2011 results have not yet been announced, Bost said.

Traeger did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Christine Hawes, Herald writer, can be reached at 941-745-7081.