Wyatt Employment Law Report


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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.


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EEOC Notice Concerning the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

By George Miller

On August 12, 2009, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission posted on its website a Notice Concerning the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.  The Notice states in part that, “. . . each paycheck that delivers discriminatory compensation is a wrong actionable under the federal EEO statutes, regardless of when the discrimination began.” 

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Update on Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

By George Miller

On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (“Act”), which addresses the issue of discrimination in compensation.  The Act amends Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the federal Rehabilitation Act, to state that, “. . . a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice that is unlawful under such Acts occurs each time compensation is paid pursuant to the discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, and for other practices.”  The statute’s effective date was retroactive to May 28, 2007, the day before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Lilly Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Inc., in which the Court held that a new violation of the law does not occur each time an employee is paid following a discriminatory compensation decision.  The Act effectively overrules the Supreme Court’s decision and allows claims to be pursued that would otherwise have been barred by applicable statutes of limitations because the original, allegedly discriminatory compensation decision was made outside the limitations period. 

Since January of this year when the Act was signed into law, the federal courts have issued over thirty decisions interpreting the Act. 

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