Class-Action Gender, Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Allowed

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U.S. District Court Judge Gerard Lynch ruled that 19 current and former female employees of the pharmaceutical company Novartis Pharmaceuticalscan proceed with a class-action lawsuit that claims genderdiscrimination, sometimes in cases which employees were pregnant orrecently had given birth, the New York Times reports.

Lynch'sruling on the lawsuit, filed by employees who had sales-relatedpositions, means that the plaintiffs can represent up to 5,000 currentand former employees of Novartis Pharmaceuticals, since2002, accordingto the Times. Lynch dismissed the plaintiffs' claims against Novartis Pharmaceuticals' parent company, Novartis Corporation.

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Threeof the plaintiffs, as well as 28 women who filed affidavits, said thatwomen who became pregnant were mistreated, including being subject toarbitrary discipline, denial of promotions and termination. "Manyattest to specific comments by managers indicating a hostility topregnancy," Lynch wrote in his opinion.

One manager allegedlyencouraged a young woman to get an abortion, and another women allegesthat employees at a training session were urged not to get pregnant.Lynch wrote, "The declarant, five months pregnant at the time, drew theeye of the trainer, who said, 'Oops, too late.'" One woman testifiedthat her manager said he did not favor hiring young women, adding,"First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes flex time and a babycarriage."

The class-action suit claims the women werediscriminated in pay, personnel evaluations and promotions. SherryPudloski, spokesperson for Novartis Pharmaceuticals, said the companystill is evaluating the ruling and declined to comment further.According to the Times, pregnancy discrimination isbanned under a 1978 federal law. There were 4,901 pregnancydiscrimination complaints filed last year, up from 3,977 in 1997,according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Saul, New York Times, 8/2).
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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Women's Health Policy Report, search thearchives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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