Consultant says termination for modifying equipment rooted in gender discrimination

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Jul. 12, 2013, 11:05am

HOUSTON - Harris County resident Kristina Eaton recently took Johnson & Johnson Inc., Depuy Synthes Sales Inc. and Synthes USA Sales LLC to court for firing her because of her gender, court records show.

Eaton filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in Harris County District Court on June 6.

It was removed to the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas on July 8.

The defendants employed Eaton as a consultant selling orthopedic medical devices for 12 years since 2000.

In February 2012, the plaintiff moved to Houston, and her division, Synthes, merged with Depuy about four months later.

According to the suit, it was during the merger Eaton began to experience "combative and abusive" treatment from her sales manager, Mark Grady, who purportedly told her that she "could not perform her job as well as a man because she had to choose between family and work."

Grady, who is not a defendant in the case, also made reference to her children and childcare issues, the suit says.

It further states that the complainant subsequently reported the supposed mistreatment to her superiors to no avail as the respondents tried to implicate her in a "nearly two-year-old alleged compliance issue," which "was and is nothing more than pretext by the defendants to drum up some criticism of the plaintiff to support the acts of retaliation to follow."

"The writing was clearly on the wall, and having received absolutely no support from her employer to investigate and resolve the alleged discrimination and retaliation," the suit says.

Rather than address her complaints, Eaton says, the defendants discussed with her "only the modification of one of its cannulated (hollow) screwdrivers, whereby the tip is modified to create a sharp tip," the final product being what is known in the medical implant community as a "pig sticker."

Eaton insists the tool modification in question was not an issue until she spoke out against the discrimination against her, "and then, criticism was directly only to her."

She was terminated on Nov. 12, 2012, for supposedly having involvement with modifying devices for surgeons to which the suit contends "is clearly pretext for the real reason - gender discrimination and retaliation for having engaged in protected activity."

"No male AO consultant was terminated when the plaintiff was, even though there is evidence that some had involvement with modifying devices for surgeons," the suit says.

A jury trial is requested.

Attorney Martin A. Shellist of Shellist Lazarz Slobin LLP in Houston is representing the complainant.

Case No. 4:13-CV-1970

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