Novartis Gender Discrimination Trial Begins Today

Posted April 7th, 2010.

5600 Female Employees Seek $200M for Disparities in Pay and Promotion& Pregnancy Discrimination

For more information, contact Jamie Moss,201-493-1027

(April 7, 2010, New York) — Jury selection begins today in what is believed to be one of the largest gender discrimination class actions ever to go to trial in the U.S.

Over 5600 women make up the class suing Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation in the federal district court in Manhattan. The class includes female sales representatives and entry-level managers who have worked for the giant drug company since 2002.

The plaintiffs allege Novartis discriminated against them in pay, promotion, employment evaluations and working conditions because of their gender and in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Plaintiffs also bring claims alleging their pay and employment conditions were adversely affected by pregnancies or giving birth.

The women are represented by David Sanford, Steven Wittels and Katherine Kimpel in the New York and Washington, DC offices of Sanford, Wittels & Heisler LLP, and Grant Morris, of Washington, DC

“Novartis’ female employees have been for many years and continue to be subjected to systemic gender discrimination,” said David Sanford. “These women have paid the price for a corporate culture that condones treating women with gender hostility.  I am confident the outcome of this trial will go a long way toward ending these unlawful corporate behaviors.”

In addition to asking for an award of compensatory and punitive class damages, the plaintiffs are seeking a permanent injunction to prevent future gender discrimination by the defendants, programs at Novartis to remedy past discrimination, and the establishment of a task force at the company to oversee the implementation of remedies.

Kate Kimpel said, “The ultimate goal of this trial is to change the way Novartis treats its female employees.  If we accomplish that goal, not only will women at Novartis benefit, but women throughout the United States will have achieved a victory on the way towards true equality in the workplace.”

The complaint details numerous specific discriminatory incidents as the basis for the female employees’ complaints, including:

  • A Novartis manager encouraging an employee to get an abortion.
  • A company employee informed she did not qualify for a pay raise because she had not been in her sales territory during her maternity leave.
  • A Novartis manager stating a preference not to hire females because “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes flex time and a baby carriage.”
  • Company trainers who urged employees during training not to get pregnant, including a trainer who said to an already pregnant sales rep, “Oops, too late.”
  • An employee who was disciplined for a low level of sales during a period that included FMLA leave for the birth of twins, during which she was required to perform work for the company.
  • An employee denied opportunities to take management training courses after becoming pregnant.

Up to ten jurors will be selected. A unanimous verdict is required for a decision.

About Sanford Wittels & Heisler

Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP (SWH) is a boutique class-action litigation law firm with offices in New York, Washington, DC, and San Francisco.  SWH specializes in civil rights and general public interest cases, representing plaintiffs with employment discrimination, labor and wage violations, predatory lending, whistleblower, consumer fraud, and other claims. Along with an expertise in class actions, SWH also represents select individuals and has developed particular expertise in the representation of executives in employment disputes.