Labor & Employment

Federal Jury Awards $250M in Punitives in Novartis Sex-Bias Case

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A federal jury’s award of $250 million in punitive damages today in a corporate sex-bias case is reportedly the largest ever in a gender discrimination case.

The award comes two days after the Manhattan jury found Novartis AG liable for discriminating against 12 women concerning pay, promotion and pregnancy and awarded them $3.3 million in compensatory damages, according to the New York Post and Reuters.

That earlier verdict opened the door for nearly 5,600 more women who worked for Novartis between 2002 and 2007 to apply for compensatory damages, explains Reuters. Presiding Judge Colleen McMahon will determine how much the drugmaker must pay each member of the class.

Plaintiffs’ lawyer David Sanford was jubilant, saying that the punitives award is the highest ever in a gender-discrimination case, the Post reports.

“The jury has spoken and has sent a message to Novartis and all other corporations in America that they cannot continue to get away with the discrimination and the systemic problems that have gone on for so long,” he said.

Members of the jury and a spokesman and lawyer for Novartis reportedly declined to comment.

Among other evidence presented during the six-week trial, statistics showed that women made up half of the Swiss-based company’s sales force but less than a quarter of its managers, according to Steven Wittels, another lawyer for the plaintiffs.

In addition to money, the plaintiffs are seeking court-ordered changes concerning the company’s policies.

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