Two former Abbott Laboratories sales reps have sued the company in federal court in Chicago, claiming the drugmaker denied them overtime wages.
The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, comes on the heels of lawsuits filed last year by reps against pharmaceutical companies including Astra-Zeneca, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer. The lawsuit argues that Abbott classifies its sales reps as exempt under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, meaning they are not entitled to receive overtime pay.
Under current federal labor laws, sales forces can be exempt from overtime wages. But attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case argue that drug reps often work up to 70 hours a week and should not be classified as sales people.
“Although the companies claim that the representatives are salespersons and therefore not protected by overtime laws, with some exceptions, they actually don't sell anything,” said attorney Charles Joseph of Joseph & Herzfeld, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the former Abbott employees. “Rather, they are tasked to influence the prescribing behaviors of doctors.”
The lawsuit is asking the court to order Abbott to start paying overtime to its pharmaceutical reps and seeks compensation to current and former employees denied overtime pay.