NAACP   heightens focus on Eli Lilly discrimination suit affecting African American   employees around the country

Hundreds of current and former African American employees’ descriptions of pervasive, unfair termination rates, pay discrimination and hostile working environments at Eli Lilly led to a major class action lawsuit against the global pharmaceutical company. The NAACP, though its Greater Indianapolis Branch, has now joined the suit with the support of other national and community-based organizations.

The NAACP calls for immediate action by Eli Lilly and for greater corporate accountability when such incidents or allegations occur. “Discriminatory practices whether in policy or experience should not be tolerated, are against the law and do not make good business sense,” said NAACP Interim President and CEO Dennis Courtland Hayes. “Companies have much to lose by improperly addressing offensive behavior of staffers and fostering a culture of unequal treatment.” 

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports recieving nearly 28,000 complaints of race based discrimination in the workplace each of the last four fiscal years. Resolution of those claims averaged in excess of $67.1 million.     

“We’re extremely proud to have the national office’s involvement and support in this case,” said Greater Indianapolis NAACP Branch President Cornell Burris. “We‘re here to protect the interests of the NAACP and look out for these employees. Some of these folks are seriously afraid of retaliation and afraid to get involved. Our role will be that of a watchdog for them.”  

Perhaps the most startling account of the racially offensive events at Eli Lilly involved Cassandra Welch, the class suit representative and former company employee who found a black doll with a noose around its neck in her work space after raising complaints of racial discrimination to Eli Lilly executives.

Welch hopes the legal action and other efforts will bring about change. "I want African Americans to be able to work at Lilly,” she said. “To be able to be paid equally. To be able to be promoted equally. To be able to speak when they are discriminated against without fear of retaliation."

Last year, Rose & Rose P.C., a national class action lawsuit firm based in Washington, D.C., initially filed against Eli Lilly for race discrimination in employment practices against African Americans. Since then, hundreds of employees have validated Welch’s claims against the company with their own personal testimonies.

The law firm has established an office in Indianapolis, location of Eli Lilly’s headquarters, to support plaintiffs in the case. Additionally, a national campaign of awareness is underway to create a public discourse around civil rights violations, inequality in employment and to investigate the emotional toll that discrimination plays on the American workforce. Log on to: to learn more about the campaign. Details of the lawsuit can be found at

The NAACP advocates strengthening existing employment discrimination laws and monitors courts to ensure judges are interpreting the laws consistent with Congressional intent.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization.  Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

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