Jury Finds Gender Discrimination at Novartis

May 18, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – A federal court jury has found that Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. systematically discriminated against female employees in pay and promotional opportunities.

A Reuters news report said plaintiffs, current and former Novartis employees, want up to $285 million in punitive damages, citing a plaintiffs’ lawyer. The class-action case, filed in 2004, now covers 5,600 women.

Reuters said an attorney for the women argued in court that the jury should award the women between $190 million and $285 million in punitive damages, which is about 2% to 3% of the company’s $9.5 billion 2009 revenue.

In its ruling, the jury awarded $3.3 million in compensatory damages to 12 of the women who testified at the six-week trial. The jury’s award opens the door for the 5,588 other women in the class who can now also apply for compensatory damages.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon will determine back pay, lost benefits and adjusted wages.

Novartis attorney Richard Schnadig admitted the jury had chastised the company with the “sweeping nature” of its verdict, but argued that it “has already received a message,” according to the news report.

The case is Velez et al vs. Novartis Corp., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 04-09194.