Following a massive $250 million punitive damages verdict from a Manhattan jury, Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis has agreed to settle the remaining claims in a recent gender bias suit. Pending final approval by the district judge, the settlement would be more than $152 million and would cover the remainder of the 5,600 claims filed in the class-action suit.
The case involved claims from female sales representatives that Novartis paid female employees less than male employees while denying them promotional opportunities similar to those of their male counterparts. The jury found that Novartis had discriminated in pay, promotional opportunities, and pregnancy-related matters, awarding $3.3 million in compensatory damages as well as the massive punitive damages sum — the highest award to date in a gender bias suit — to the 12 employees named in the case. Absent a settlement, damages for the remaining members of the class action could have totaled more than $1 billion.
The terms of the settlement agreement would allow for full compensation of both former and current female field sales force employees. The company also has agreed to implement a $22.5 million, three-year improvement program, beefing up sexual harassment policies and training while also hiring an external consultant to help remedy remaining gender inequalities in the company.
Learn more about how to avoid sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and wage and hour issues in the workplace with the HR Guide to Employment Law