Last Updated May 19, 2010 3:13 PM EDT
A jury found Novartis unfairly treated its female employees by not promoting them as much, discriminating against workers who got pregnant, and most infamously threatening a female drug sales rep after she reported to HR that was raped by one of her customers.
The key thing for Walmart is that the Novartis case was the first ever class action sex discrimination case to go to trial, according to a representative of the lawyers who won the suit. The previous big cases all settled before they reached a verdict. Those include Sanofi-Aventis (SNY) (a $15 million deal) and Home Depot (HD) (a $104 million deal.)
It wasn't at all clear prior to this case that juries would be so financially sympathetic to the women (although lying to the police during the rape investigation was clearly the killer blow for Novartis). As such, the price of settling was apparently at least a 50 percent discount on the price of losing at trial.
Unfortunately for Walmart, the plaintiffs there now know to ask for roughly double what they thought they could get before this morning. That sum could be enormous: Although the Novartis case affects 5,600 women, Walmart is the largest employer in the U.S. -- possibly the world -- and its case is the largest discrimination case ever: There are 1.6 million women in the class.
- Too Big to Care: Why Novartis Decided to Fight a Sex Discrimination Case It Knew It Would Lose
- HR Hell at Novartis: Alleged Rape Victim Threatened With "Disciplinary Action"
- Time for Walmart to Settle Its Massive Class-Action Discrimination Lawsuit -- Now
- What Was Novartis Thinking? Rape Claim in Discrimination Suit May Seal the Company's Legal Fate
- Novartis Sex-Discrimination Case: The Horrible Downside of Tolerating "Bad Apples"
- At Novartis, It's Pregnant Women vs. Cheerleaders Among the Sales Reps
- Sanofi's $15M Settlement With Female Drug Reps Is Short on Cash But Long on Pay Raises