Novartis discriminated against female employees: jury

18th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

A New York jury on Monday found the US subsidiary of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis guilty of discriminating against its female employees, lawyers said.

Novartis was found to have practiced gender discrimination in pay, promotional opportunities and pregnancy-related matters, the lawyers said following a six-year class-action suit.

The jury in the US District Court in Manhattan awarded compensatory damages of 3.3 million dollars in total to 12 women who worked as Novartis sales representatives and named as plaintiffs in the case.

The case was brought on behalf of about 5,600 current and former female Novartis employees in the United States.

The judge in the case is expected to determine a separate amount of class damages for the bigger group at a later date, the lawyers said.

"Today's verdict sends a clear and powerful message to Novartis and every corporation in the United States: women are equal partners in our workforce," said David Sanford, a lawyer for the women.

"The days of second-class citizenship are over. Play by the rules or be subject to great exposure -- financially and reputationally," he said.

Novartis expressed dismay over the verdict and said it would appeal.

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (NPC), the company's US subsidiary, "is disappointed in the jury's verdict and the 3.3 million dollar award to the plaintiffs, as we believe the plaintiffs' claims were unfounded," a company spokeswoman said.

"We will appeal this decision."

NPC had developed and implemented "policies setting the highest standards with regards to diversity and inclusion for the development of our employees," she said.

"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."

© 2010 AFP

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