A marketing executive at Roche Diagnostics Corp. in Indianapolis who lost her job in a restructuring last year is suing the company in a wide-ranging discrimination complaint.
Brigitte Fernandes worked for the medical-instrument maker for 17 years, most recently as vice president of marketing for molecular diagnostics.
In a suit filed this month in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, Fernandes said she was told in December her employment with the company was ending as part of a permanent reduction in force.
Fernandes said she has suffered damages, and is suing Roche for sex discrimination and national origin discrimination. She is also claiming disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, in connection with her husband’s cancer diagnosis.
A Roche spokesman declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
Fernandes’ termination occurred after Roche merged two of its business units to form a new business unit called Molecular Labs, which reduced the number of vice president positions. The merger followed Roche’s acquisition of California-based biotech GenMark Diagnostics last year for $1.8 billion.
Fernandes had applied for vice president of marketing in the new Molecular Labs unit but did not get the position.
During her interview, Fernandes said she was told by the company’s vice president of human resources, Bridget Boyle, that her communication style “was not appreciated” by her male supervisor, Whitney Green, and that it was consistent with a “female communication style.”
Boyle also asked if Fernandes was planning to return to France. Fernandes is a French citizen. She is married to an American, has two children who were born in Indianapolis, and has lived and worked in the U.S. for many years.
Before Roche was scheduled to announce its candidate selections, Fernandes was contacted by a member of Roche’s executive leadership team, who expressed regret that she was not selected for a new vice president position, and told Fernandes she “would have been great for this role,” the complaint said. The name of executive was not stated in the lawsuit.
Fernandes claims she was “equally or more qualified” for the new vice president’s role than the person who won the position. She added she met or exceeded the company’s performance expectations at all times during her 17 years of service.
Upon learning she was not selected for the position, Fernandes reached out to Green, her supervisor. He acknowledged that she was not chosen, and told her that “not getting the position was better for you”—referring to Fernandes’ husband’s battle with cancer, “and implying that Fernandes, a woman, should stay home to care for her husband,” the lawsuit said.
“Fernandes’ husband has a disability, cancer, and is in the process of treatment,” the complaint said. “At all relevant times, Roche knew that Fernandes’ husband has cancer. … Roche assumed that Fernandes would be unable to work because she would need to care for her husband.”
Fernandes is being represented by Annavieve C. Conklin and Kathleen Ann DeLaney of the Indianapolis law firm DeLaney & DeLaney LLC. The case was assigned to Judge Tanya Walton Pratt.