Employment Law Report

Record $250 Million Punitive Damages in Gender Bias Case

By Kim Koratsky

Yesterday, a Southern District of New York jury smacked Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. with $250 million in punitive damages in a gender bias case.  Earlier this week, the five women and four men on the jury awarded $3,367,250 in compensatory damages to the 12 named plaintiffs (current and former sales reps) who prevailed on claims of equal pay, gender, and pregnancy discrimination occurring between 2002 and 2007.  The punitive damage award will apply to those 12 plaintiffs, as well as members of a class that may be as large as 5,600 women.  Plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury to award between 2 and 3 percent of Novartis’ $9.5 billion in 2009 revenue, which it did.  Still outstanding is the issue of back pay which could be as high as $37 million, and compensatory damages for the remainder of the class.  Total damages could exceed $1 billion.