Switzerland-based drug company Novartis has been hit with a $110 million (CHF110 million) gender discrimination lawsuit claiming one of its divisions routinely denied female employees equal pay and access to top jobs.
The class-action lawsuit filed in a Manhattan court alleges that Alcon Laboratories Inc, a Texas-based company acquired by Novartis in 2010, maintained a “boy’s club atmosphere” that barred women from leadership positions.
The plaintiffs in the case, Elyse Dickerson and Susan Orr, argue Novartis violated the US Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made gender discrimination by employers illegal.
Novartis spokeswoman Elizabeth Power told Reuters that Alcon denies the charges.
“"The company is deeply committed to equal employment opportunities for all employees and to preventing discrimination," she said.
The lawsuit claims that Dickerson and Orr were systematically discriminated against when Alcon “paid them less than similarly situated men, discriminated against them in assignments and other career-enhancing opportunities, and denied them promotions in favour of ... men”.
The suit also claims that while Orr was “forced to resign” in the face of the discrimination, Dickerson “tried to fight Novartis’s glass ceiling from within”. However, the suit continues, “Novartis fiercely retaliated against her” by unfairly downgrading her performance ratings, launching an investigation to attempt to fire her, and ultimately doing so two weeks before her company stock, worth $750,000, was scheduled to vest.
Through the lawsuit, Dickerson is seeking $10 million and her job back. Orr is seeking $100 million on behalf of a class of thousands of Alcon female employees.
Novartis said in its most recent company report that it has "continued to focus on the promotion of women”. However, the lawsuit claims the company has no current plan to address gender discrimination issues at Alcon.
swissinfo.ch and agencies