Novartis fined 250 million dollars for discrimination

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Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis was fined 250 million dollars by a US court on Wednesday, after being found guilty of discriminating against female employees, lawyers said.

A New York jury ordered the company to pay 250 million dollars after it was found to have discriminated 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 had earlier 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 jury determined that Novartis must pay an additional 250 million dollars for the gender discrimination it inflicted on 5,600 working women," said Sanford, Wittels & Heisler, the law firm which represented the women.

Reacting to Monday's initial decision Novartis had said it would appeal the case.

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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