Novartis Pharma Gender-Bias Case: Jury Awards $3.3M

Update: On Wednesday, the same jury that awarded $3.3 million in compensatory damages to 12 women for gender discrimination reached a decision to award $250 million in punitive damages. The plaintiffs’ attorney had asked for $285 million in punitive damages, an estimated 2 to 3 percent of the $9.5 million in revenues that Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. earned in 2009. To read the company’s response, click here.

A jury in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Monday awarded $3.3 million in compensatory damages against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. for discriminating against a dozen U.S. women sales representatives and entry-level managers since 2002. After a six-week trial, the jury found the U.S. unit of Novartis AG, Europe’s second-largest drug manufacturer, discriminated against the plaintiffs over pay, promotions and after they announced they were pregnant.

The award is the first phase of deliberations. Punitive damages will be decided today after closing arguments are heard. This story will be updated when those damages are announced.

A statement released by the company to DiversityInc early Tuesday states: “The US subsidiary of Novartis, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (NPC) is disappointed in the jury’s verdict and the USD 3.3 million award to the plaintiffs, as we believe the plaintiffs’ claims were unfounded. We will appeal this decision.

“Throughout our history and, in particular, in the timeframe of this lawsuit, NPC has developed and implemented policies setting the highest standards with regards to diversity and inclusion for the development of our employees. These actions have resulted in external recognition of NPC as a company committed to a diverse and inclusive environment that fosters the career goals of all 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.”

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. is No. 16 on The 2010 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity® list.

The lead plaintiff in Velez v. Novartis, Amy Velez, began working for Novartis in 1997 as a sales rep in Washington. She left the company in 2004, the year the lawsuit was filed.

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