Yesterday a Manhattan jury wound up almost a week of deliberations and rendered a $3.3 million verdict in favor of the 12 named plaintiffs against Novartis AG. The class of 5,600 female sales representatives in the United States will also be able to continue a second phase of trial, and prove punitive damages. The women complained that since 2002 they were kept out of higher management, and according to their lawyer, “tolerated a culture of sexism, a boys’ club atmosphere.” One woman testified that her boss told her to get an abortion after she reported she was pregnant; others talked about managers who took male sales representatives to strip clubs.
This case represents the second largest employment class action on behalf of women, after the Walmart case recently certified to go forward. The jury found that Novartis had engaged in systematic gender-based discrimination, paying women less than similar male employees, failing to promote women to managerial positions, and treating pregnant women less favorably.
The punitive damage phase will begin today, with the jury being told that the value of the company is $9.5 billion.