Novartis Must Pay Punitive Damages in Class Action Discrimination Suit

Due to a systematic pattern of discrimination against its female employees, Novartis Corp. must pay more than $3 million in compensation to 12 women, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled on May 18th. However, these 12 women are a mere fraction of those represented in this class action suit. "The verdict supports the claims of 5,600 women," Davis Sanford, the plaintiffs' lawyer, told Bloomberg Tuesday.

According to Sanford, gender bias is not a new concern. "Novartis has been involved in systemic discrimination since 2002," he told Bloomberg. The women claim Novartis discouraged pregnancies, ignored sexual harassment complaints and passed over qualified women for promotion, choosing instead less-qualified men.

The plaintiffs in the class action originally sought $200 million from the Swiss drug manufacturer for back pay, lost benefits and adjusted wages. Their disappointment in the minimal $3.4 million compensation was offset by the fact that this is the first gender bias class action in which a jury will have awarded punitive damages.

Novartis Corp. protests that the charges were unfounded and has issued a statement saying that they will consider an appeal.

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Chelsea Hennessy

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