Pfizer Cancels Minorities-Only Fellowship

After facing significant backlash and a discrimination lawsuit, pharma giant Pfizer has canceled its minorities-only fellowship and opened the spot up to applicants of all races.

Nearly six months after several top civil rights lawyers condemned Pfizer’s program as a violation of federal law, the company has quietly dropped the race-related requirement for the fellowship spot.

Web archives show that between February 14 and February 18, Pfizer quietly removed the requirement that applicants to its Breakthrough Fellowship be Black, Hispanic, or Native American.

The Breakthrough Fellowship offers recipients guaranteed employment with Pfizer, and now states that it is open to all college juniors who have a “demonstrated commitment” to “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

New guidelines for the application to the program state that “you are eligible to apply for the Breakthrough Fellowship Program regardless of whether you are of Black/African American, Latino/Hispanic, or Native American descent.”

The decision to quietly remove the race-based requirements come amid a legal battle between Pfizer and medical advocacy group Do No Harm, which filed a lawsuit against the company over the fellowship in September.

In December, a federal judge threw out the lawsuit — claiming that the plaintiffs lacked standing — but Do No Harm later filed an appeal on January 4.

Stanley Goldfarb, chairman of Do No Harm, has taken credit for Pfizer’s decision to change the requirements, asserting that the move reflects the power of lawfare to fight against racial discrimination.

“This significant change was made only after Do No Harm’s lawsuit, and only because Pfizer knows its fellowship is in jeopardy on appeal,” Goldfarb said in a statement. “Do No Harm is pleased that Pfizer recognizes its blatant racial discrimination is unlawful and immoral.”

Speaking with the Washington Free Beacon, a Pfizer spokesman claimed that the goals of the program had not changed with the removal of the race-based requirement — and argued that “a broad coalition” strengthens Pfizer’s “ability to meet those goals.”

Nonetheless, the Breakthrough Fellowship blatantly violated laws against race-based hiring and contracting, according to five civil rights experts who spoke with the Washington Free Beacon.

Do No Harm’s lawsuit also argued that the program violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination by the recipients of federal funds. Alongside numerous other healthcare companies, Pfizer receives reimbursements from federally funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid, along with grants from the National Institutes of Health.

“This Pfizer program is so flagrantly illegal I seriously wonder how it passed internal review by its general counsel,” said Adam Mortara, one of the country’s top conservative attorneys.

This is just the latest controversy Pfizer has been facing, as the company was recently exposed for its plans to conduct gain-of-function research thanks to an undercover journalist at Project Veritas.