Novartis hit with landmark $250 million punitive damage award for gender discrimination

In a landmark class action verdict against Novartis, a New York jury awarded $250 million in punitive damages for sexual discrimination on behalf of 5,600 women who worked for Novartis from 2002 to 2007, along with $3.3 million in compensatory damages for the 12 women who brought the complaint. The case is the largest gender discrimination case to go to trial against any company, and the largest jury verdict of its kind.

The plaintiffs claimed that Novartis actively discouraged women from getting pregnant, passed over them for promotions, ignored their harassment complaints and paid them less than men. Novartis said that every woman’s situation was different, but the judge and jury agreed with the plaintiffs. The punitive damages award represents approximately 2.5 % of the company’s $9.5 billion revenue in 2009. With the jury verdict in hand, the Judge will now determine the back pay, lost benefits and adjusted wages for the rest of the class members. That could add another billion dollars to the verdict.

Novartis plans to appeal, but what does this mean for Massachusetts workers? If you feel you were the victim of a company-wide policy of discrimination, give us a call..