By Jonathan Stemple
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A group of medical professionals who defend radical, divisive thinking and discrimination in health care have been sued. Pfizer Inc (NYSE:) on Thursday, saying the drug company is running a fellowship that illegally excludes white and Asian-American applicants.
In a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, plaintiff Do No Harm described Pfizer’s Breakthrough Fellowship program as “apparently discriminatory” because only blacks, Latinos and Native Americans can apply.
She said the program violates federal civil rights laws, New York state and New York City laws, as well as federal bans on racial discrimination by companies accepting reimbursements from state health care programs.
“Racial discrimination degrades us” and “Pfizer’s open exclusion of white and Asian American applicants is illegal,” the complaint said, citing the views of two conservative Supreme Court justices, Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia.
The lawsuit seeks injunctions preventing Pfizer from making race a factor in awarding fellowships, and preventing it from filling the 2023 class under current eligibility rules. It is also seeking one dollar in token compensation.
In a statement, Pfizer said it did not review the lawsuit, but was “fully confident” that the fellowship program complied with all US employment laws.
“We will continue to strive to create more opportunities, including through specific programs designed to create a broad network of talent,” she added.
Do No Harm had no immediate additional comment. The Virginia-based Glen Allen group said its members include doctors, other healthcare professionals, medical students, patients and policy makers.
Pfizer, headquartered in New York, said the fellowship program https://www.pfizer.com/about/careers/breakthrough-fellowship-program is part of a nine-year commitment to enhance minority representation, and that the company aims to enroll 100 fellows by year 2025.
Fellows receive two years of full-time employment after college graduation, fully-funded master’s degrees, and employment at Pfizer after completion of the program.
In a statement on Pfizer’s website, CEO Albert Burla said the program can help “achieve parity at all levels to create a vibrant culture where every fellow has a chance to succeed.”
The case is Do No Harm v. Pfizer Inc, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 22-07908.