NEW YORK (AP) – A jury decided that the drug company Novartis engaged in a pattern of discrimination against women, paying them less than men, cheating them of promotions and treating pregnant women unfavorably.
The verdict returned in U.S. District Court in Manhattan also awarded $3.3 million in compensatory damages to a dozen women who, during a six-week trial, described the abuse they endured as they sold products for Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. The individual awards ranged from $50,000 to nearly $600,000, depending on each employee’s length of service and income.
The nine jurors also agreed that the company must pay punitive damages, though the jury must resume deliberations to fix the amount after hearing closing arguments on the subject Tuesday.
The case went to trial after a lawsuit alleged that Novartis had disrespected its female workers since 2002. It said it paid them less than men, promoted few of them and allowed a hostile workplace dominated by an old boys’ network to flourish.
In a statement, Novartis said it was disappointed by the verdict and would appeal.
“We believe the plaintiffs’ claims were unfounded,” it said.
The company said it had, during the time spanned by the lawsuit, implemented policies that set the highest standards for diversity and inclusion for its employees.
“We are proud of the public honor and recognition we have received for the policies and programs we have in place to support the advancement of women in the sales force,” the company said.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs praised the verdict, saying it would bring relief to the class of 5,600 Novartis female sales representatives.
“This verdict is the first step in bringing about long overdue changes at Novartis and other companies that encourage or tolerate unfair treatment of women in their workplaces,” attorney David Sanford said.
Another lawyer, Kate Kimpel, said: “This jury learned that Novartis is not somewhere you would want your wife, your mother, your sister or your daughter to work.”
She said the company had a corporate culture that expected female representatives to be available and amenable to sexual advances from the doctors they called on.
“Time and time again, Novartis looked the other way when female representatives complained about inappropriate doctors. And then, to add insult to injury, Novartis paid those same women less, wouldn’t promote them into management and punished them if they got pregnant,” Kimpel said.
Testimony at trial included the depiction of one district manager as so abusive of his power that he showed women pornographic images and invited them to sit on his lap.
During opening statements, Novartis attorney Richard Schnadig said the company might have been slow to investigate the claims against the manager, who was fired two years after the lawsuit was filed in 2004.
“He wasn’t that bad a manager. He was just terrible with women,” Schnadig told jurors.
Date: May 17, 2010
Source: Associated Press
Filed Under: Drug Discovery