Pfizer hit with racial discrimination lawsuit over its minority fellowship program

Pfizer is hit with racial discrimination lawsuit over its minority fellowship program that ‘excludes white and asian people’ for black, latino and native Americans

  • Do No Harm has filed a lawsuit against Pfizer alleging the company has discriminated against white and Asian-Americans
  • Pfizer’s ‘Breakthrough Fellowship Program’ is a commitment by the company to ‘advance students’ of black, latino or Native American descent
  • Do No Harm, an organization that seeks to ‘remove identity politics’ from healthcare, says it has two members that cannot apply to the program
  • The lawsuit says ‘racial discrimination demeans us’ while Pfizer’s ‘open exclusion of white and Asian-American applicants is illegal’
  • Pfizer said in a statement that it has ‘every confidence’ its program has complied with all US employment laws 

A lawsuit has been filed against Pfizer alleging the company has illegally excluded white and Asian-American applicants from its minority fellowship program.

Do No Harm, an organization comprised of medical professionals advocating against ‘radical, divisive and discriminatory ideology’ in healthcare, says Pfizer’s ‘Breakthrough Fellowship Program’ violates federal law.

‘Pfizer’s open exclusion of white and Asian-American applicants is illegal,’ court documents read.

‘Pfizer is blatantly discriminating against white and Asian-American applications, blocking the creation of contractual relationships solely based on race.’

Because the pharmaceutical company receives federal funding, it is violating a federal law which prohibits employers from racially discriminating candidates.

The ‘Breakthrough Fellowship Program’ is a ‘nine-year commitment’ to ‘work to advance students and early career colleagues of black/African-American, latino/hispanic and Native American descent,’ according to its website.

The program provides fellows with two years of full-time jobs after applicants graduate from college, including a fully funded master’s degree and employment at Pfizer after completing the program.

Pfizer is facing a lawsuit which claims the pharmaceutical company has racially discriminated against applicants for hit 'Breakthrough Fellowship Program'

Pfizer is facing a lawsuit which claims the pharmaceutical company has racially discriminated against applicants for hit ‘Breakthrough Fellowship Program’

The lawsuit was filed by Do No Harm, an organization which seeks to 'remove identity politics' from healthcare, as it says it has two members which could not apply to the program

The lawsuit was filed by Do No Harm, an organization which seeks to ‘remove identity politics’ from healthcare, as it says it has two members which could not apply to the program

The 'Breakthrough Fellowship Program' is designed 'to advance students and early career colleagues of black/African-American, latino/hispanic and Native American descent,' according to its website

The ‘Breakthrough Fellowship Program’ is designed ‘to advance students and early career colleagues of black/African-American, latino/hispanic and Native American descent,’ according to its website

Pfizer says it hopes to develop at least 100 fellows by 2025. The program provides applicants with two years of full-time jobs, a paid-for master's degree and employment at the company after the program is completed

Pfizer says it hopes to develop at least 100 fellows by 2025. The program provides applicants with two years of full-time jobs, a paid-for master’s degree and employment at the company after the program is completed

In a response to Fierce Pharma, Do No Harm said it is an equal opportunity employer ‘proud of its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.’

The organization is seeking a temporary restraining order against Pfizer, a preliminary injunction barring the pharmaceutical giant from choosing its next fellowship class based on race and from posting ‘racially discriminatory’ advertisements.

It also seeks $1 in nominal damages in addition to Pfizer being required to ‘formulate new eligibility’ requirements that are ‘race-neutral.’

In its filing, Do No Harm said it was contacted by two students inside its organization who are ineligible for the fellowship because of their race.

The two students are named as ‘Member A’ and ‘Member B’ in the filing. 

It added that it has ‘at least’ one other organization member ‘who is ready and able to apply to the fellowship next year if Pfizer stops discriminating.’

Court filings submitted by Do No Harm say 'racial discrimination demeans us' while Pfizer's 'open exclusion of white and Asian-American applicants is illegal'

Court filings submitted by Do No Harm say ‘racial discrimination demeans us’ while Pfizer’s ‘open exclusion of white and Asian-American applicants is illegal’

The organization, which is comprised of medical professionals advocating against 'radical, divisive and discriminatory ideology' in healthcare, alleges Pfizer is telling white and Asian-American applicants to not apply

The organization, which is comprised of medical professionals advocating against ‘radical, divisive and discriminatory ideology’ in healthcare, alleges Pfizer is telling white and Asian-American applicants to not apply

In a statement, Pfizer said it has 'every confidence' that its fellowship program complies with all federal employment laws

In a statement, Pfizer said it has ‘every confidence’ that its fellowship program complies with all federal employment laws

The fellowship program is joined by a separate financial-assistance program available to all applicants, it said, which reimburses employees up to $10,000 annually in tuition assistance

The fellowship program is joined by a separate financial-assistance program available to all applicants, it said, which reimburses employees up to $10,000 annually in tuition assistance

Pfizer told Reuters it has ‘every confidence’ that the fellowship program complies with all federal employment laws.

‘We will continue to strive to create more opportunity, including through specific programs designed to cast a wide net for talent,’ it said.

CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement on Pfizer’s website that the program helps ‘lead to parity at all levels to create a vibrant culture where every colleague has the opportunity to succeed.’

The program plans to add ‘a generation of 100 new leaders at Pfizer from underrepresented groups,’ the program’s website says.

Pfizer has a separate education assistance program which reimburses employees up to $10,000 annually in tuition payments and ‘other eligible expenses’ for other approved courses and degrees.

This second program is available to all applicants and pushes the company’s desire to create more opportunities ‘regardless of protected characteristics,’ it told Fierce Pharma.

Do No Harm's website says it hopes to remove influence from 'the same radical movement behind 'Critical Race theory' in the classroom and 'Defund the Police''

Do No Harm’s website says it hopes to remove influence from ‘the same radical movement behind ‘Critical Race theory’ in the classroom and ‘Defund the Police”

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