Last Updated 10 Mar 2020

Novartis Pharmaceutical Gender Discrimination Class Action Lawsuit

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Amy Velez, et al. , v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. is one of the largest gender discrimination lawsuits ever to go to trial. The class action lawsuit claimed Novartis Pharmaceuticals (NPC) practiced sex discrimination against female employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Wilson 2010). The plaintiffs are nineteen women presently or formerly employed by NPC in sales related positions. They claimed the NPC discriminated against them in various ways, including compensation, promotion and promotional opportunities, personnel evaluations and by adverse treatment of women who take maternity leave.

They seek injunctive relief, back pay and front pay, and compensatory and punitive damages (US District Court Document). The class action lawsuit later grew to include 6,200 women employed by NPC. The time period of the discrimination was from 2002-2007 Amy Velez, who had twins in 2001 claimed she was repeatedly passed over for promotions by men who had inferior sales numbers. She also claims to have overheard a manager asking recruiters prospective employees were married or had children. Wilson 2010). Another woman claims she was told by a manager that he prefers not to hire younger women saying “First comes Love, then comes marriage, then comes flex time and a baby carriage. ” (Wilson 2010). In addition, the plaintiffs claim that men in the same positions earned more money than women in the save positions. The final approval of the settlement was November 19, 2010. The settlement, which totaled $175 million, included $152. million in back wages, benefits, and adjusted wages, service payments to named plaintiffs who helped litigate the case, and attorneys' fees and costs, plus $22. 5 million in nonmonetary relief representing Novartis's commitments to revise its employment policies to eliminate sex discrimination (McGowan 2010).

In response to the decision, according to NPC’s web page “As part of its commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce, NPC is implementing comprehensive programs designed to ensure that all members of its sales force are treated fairly. NPC still denies these claims but admits some of its employees may have not followed company policy. NPC will also substantially revising its human resources policies, revamping its personnel management systems, and strengthening its commitment to ensuring gender equality in the workplace These practices by NPC took place over a five year period between 2002-2007. The severity of the claims shows an escalating conflict. There were repeated offences. First here was awareness of differences; a couple female employees knew they were being passed over for promotions. This continued to annoyance; more female employees learned they were being continually passed over for promotions. Later to frustration; when the female employees learned that certain managers were not hiring younger women or women with children. Next there was anger; when sexist comments were made by management. This conflict finally escalated to hostility and war (war being the lawsuit).

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NPC could have avoided this class action lawsuit by making sure all their branches were following proper anti-discrimination procedures. Inappropriate comments by management should have been taken seriously by upper management. All employees should have been required to go to diversity training. Upper management should have looked more closely at the male/female promotion ratio. If only NPC’s upper management would have been more in tune with their subordinates this costly lawsuit might have been avoided.

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