A July 2010 Corporate Counsel article analyzed a huge discrimination verdict rendered against Novartis in a Manhattan federal district court jury trial. The jury determined that the company discriminated against its female sales representatives, creating an insensitive and hostile working environment. Instead of taking a conciliatory approach during trial, Novartis pressed hard and according to the article, responded by labeling the plaintiffs in front of the jury with demeaning and harsh stereotypes. The jury awarded $3.36 million to the 12 named plaintiffs, plus an additional $250 million to a class of additional 5,600 other plaintiffs. Of course, Novartis plans to appeal.
Interestingly, Novartis noted that Working Mother magazine had recognized the company for 10 years in a row as one of the top 100 firms for working mothers (Integrity, anyone?).
Lesson learned: Anytime an employer goes to trial justifying its conduct, and in fact, laying it on even thicker, it runs the risk of an enormous verdict. A conciliatory approach will usually result in a settlement or smaller jury verdict. Read the article here.