NEW YORK (AP) — A lawyer for past and current female employees of pharmaceutical company Novartis urged a jury Tuesday to award up to $285 million in punitive damages a day after the same jury concluded that the company discriminated against its female work force.
Attorney David Sanford said Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., multinational based in Basel, Switzerland, should be made to pay 5,600 current and former female employees $190 million to $285 million, which would provide each of them $34,000 to $50,000.
Sanford said the punitive damages would send a message to other large companies that they cannot discriminate against female workers.
Sanford and Novartis attorney Richard Schnadig made their arguments just before the jury began deliberating how much to award in punitive damages. It finished the day without reaching its decision.
On Monday, the same jury concluded that Novartis had discriminated against its female employees since 2002, and it awarded $3.3 million to a dozen women whose stories were outlined during the six-week trial.
“To Novartis, discrimination is one big joke,” Sanford told the jury. “There was an old boys’ network at Novartis running rampant. The discrimination continues to this very day. Absolutely nothing was ever done to help women at Novartis.”
Sanford said he came up with the amount of punitive damages he requested from the jury by estimating that the company should have to pay 2 percent to 3 percent of the $9.5 billion in revenues it made in 2009.
Schnadig urged the jury not to react emotionally to the pleas that Sanford had made.
“The company is taking everything you said to heart and is going to change,” he promised.
“Be fair to us,” he said.
The judge warned jurors not to let bias, prejudice or sympathy play a role in how much they decided to award in punitive damages.
The case went to trial after a lawsuit alleged that Novartis had disrespected its female workers by paying them less than men, promoting fewer of them and allowing a hostile workplace dominated by an old boys’ network to flourish.
Novartis has promised to appeal.
During the trial, the plaintiffs portrayed one district manager as particularly abusive, so much so that he showed women pornographic images and invited them to sit on his lap.
During his opening statement, Schnadig said the company might have been slow to investigate the claims against the manager, who was fired two years after the lawsuit was filed in 2004.
“He wasn’t that bad a manager. He was just terrible with women,” Schnadig said. It was a quote that the plaintiffs have repeatedly reminded the jury about.
Sanford did so again Tuesday, telling jurors that Novartis “just doesn’t get it. You can’t be a good manager if you’re terrible with women.”