NEWARK, N.J., May 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Sanford Heisler LLP today filed a $100 million individual and class action suit in the U.S. District Court for New Jersey against pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., Inc. The action was brought by Kelli Smith on behalf of all female sales representatives at Merck. The complaint asserts that the company systematically discriminates against its female and pregnant employees in assignment, promotion, advancement, and pay and retaliates against female employees in violation of Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. "Merck is a male-dominated workplace openly hostile to the success and advancement of women," said David Sanford, Founder and Chairman of Sanford Heisler and lead attorney on Ms. Smith's legal team. "Its discrimination against mothers is particularly egregious because Merck's compensation structure decreases the pay of managers whose subordinates take maternity leave." Other members of Ms. Smith's legal team include Kate Mueting, an associate in Washington, D.C, and Deborah Marcuse, a Senior Litigation Counsel in New York. Sanford Heisler LLP has a long record of victories in employment discrimination matters brought by female employees of global pharmaceutical companies, including a recent case against Novartis that resulted in the largest ever monetary award in a U.S. employment discrimination case. Ms. Smith's suit details a widespread pattern of employment discrimination. Merck discourages management from hiring and promoting women, attempts to force pregnant women to leave the company so their managers' compensation will not be affected, and structures compensation so that managers and colleagues of pregnant women get paid less because they work with women who take maternity leave.