A former sales manager at Abbott Labs in Minneapolis has sued the company, claiming she was the target of gender and age discrimination when she was fired in March after eight years on the job and years of accolades.
Georgann "Gigi" Gillund filed suit in Ramsey County District Court in late June alleging multiple instances of favoritism toward younger and less experienced men, including giving them pieces of her sales territory and client accounts that she had grown from scratch.
Gillund also claims she was berated by her managers and penalized for small errors while the men, whom she said her manager referred to as his "buddies" and "bros," got away with behavior that violated company policies.
Abbott Labs has not yet responded in court to the complaint but denied the charges to the Star Tribune.
"Abbott promotes and values a diverse and inclusive workforce and is committed to equal employment opportunity for all," a company spokesperson said. "We believe this case is without merit."
Abbott Labs, based in the Chicago area, is a $35 billion publicly traded medical device and health care company. It maintains a significant presence in the Twin Cities following its 2017 acquisition of St. Jude Medical.
Gillund, 55, was a territory manager in the neuromodulation division, specializing in sales to health care providers of an implanted medical device that uses electrical impulses to treat nerve-related pain.
She was twice named territory manager of the year for exceeding sales quotas and received an internal President's Club award at least five times for surpassing company sales targets, according to the lawsuit.
Gillund said she and another sales manager developed a $10 million territory that included Minnesota, North Dakota and western Wisconsin.
After her sales partner took a job at another company, Gillund said in the lawsuit, a new regional manager, who was a decade younger than her, split the territory and gave away a significant number of her accounts. The decision cut her out of $79,000 in commissions in one year alone, she claims.
Gillund described an environment that became increasingly hostile toward her and other women. In texts and group calls, her manager "allowed and even encouraged conversations to veer into topics ranging from sports to porn stars," the lawsuit claims. Cursing was "appropriate and accepted behavior."
Gillund said in the lawsuit that she shared her concerns several times with Abbott's human resources department, starting in 2019, and later hired a lawyer who also worked with the HR department and internal counsel on her behalf. After feeling that the company wasn't taking her complaints seriously, Gillund filed a discrimination case with the Minnesota Human Rights Department in May 2020.
"We've tried to get this resolved and work out mutually acceptable terms but that hasn't been successful," said her attorney, Lawrence Schaefer.
Schaefer said that when Gillund raised concerns, her manager as well as the area vice president retaliated against her.
According to the suit, Gillund was not given an assistant to help manage her region, unlike the men, which made her feel that she was "being set up to fail." In an e-mail sent to the region, she once was blamed for the regional team's failure to reach sales goals, when younger men who failed to reach individual goals were never called out, she charged.
Gillund said that when she asked her managers how to improve, she was told it was "her responsibility to figure it out" and "You're a grown woman."
A human resources representative told her she was "a difficult employee" and that she "was the cause of her own problems," Gillund charged in the lawsuit.
In an interview, Gillund said she had learned to navigate a mostly male industry after many years of working in medical device sales. She said she'd never gone to HR before or contacted an attorney.
"You think when going through it, that it's just you," she said. "The way they talk with you makes you feel like it's just you. … I did very well there and accomplished all the goals that were put in front of me and then some."
Gillund now works for another company in the medical device industry.