This month in New York, a class action lawsuit was filed against Novartis, a large pharmaceutical company. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege a pattern or practice of sex discrimination against women who worked for the Alcon division of the company. They claim that women in the Alcon division received lower pay than men who did substantially the same jobs. The lawsuit also alleges that when one female employee blew the whistle on this discrimination to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the company retaliated against her.
This is not the first sex discrimination class action filed against Novartis. During a trial in 2010, a jury found that Novartis had engaged in a pattern or practice of sex and pregnancy discrimination, including pay discrimination, against its female employees. After the trial, Novartis settled for a total of about $175 million. The same law firm who represented the class of women in this case represents the class of women in the Alcon case.
These cases illustrate the widespread problem of pay discrimination in the United States. In the United States, women earn significantly less than men. This gender gap in pay exists in both low and high skilled jobs, and the data shows that women often earn less than men within the same occupations. To be sure, there are various reasons for the pay disparity between American men and women but sex discrimination is certainly one of them.
Sex discrimination in pay is unlawful under Maine and federal law. The Civil Rights Act, Equal Pay Act, Maine Human Rights Act, and Maine’s version of the Equal Pay Act all prohibit sex discrimination in pay. These laws have been on the books for decades and have been vigorously enforced, such as in the $175 million case against Novartis. However, the gender gap still persists and there is still a need for vigorous action against pay discrimination. The Maine Employee Rights Group is committed to this fight. If you believe your employer has paid you less than men who do substantially the same work as you, contact us to learn more about your rights.