Novartis US subsidiary Alcon Laboratories is facing a $110m individual and collective gender discrimination lawsuit over claims that the company denied equal pay and promotional opportunities to its female employees.
Filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Elyse Dickerson and Susan Orr.
They claim that the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits gender discrimination by employers, and the US Equal Pay Act.
Dickerson is seeking compensation of about $10m while Dr Orr, who started her career with Alcon in 1997, is seeking $100m for herself and members of the collective action.
Novartis spokeswoman Elizabeth Power was quoted by Reuters as saying that Alcon disagreed with the allegations.
Power said: "The company is deeply committed to equal employment opportunity for all employees and to preventing discrimination."
In 2010, another division Novartis Pharmaceuticals was hit with a $253m verdict over similar claims in a separate gender discrimination case.
After the case settlement, the company agreed to implement reforms to prevent discrimination against the employees who complained.
Both the cases were filed by Sanford Heisler Kimpel chairman David Sanford, who is now representing the plaintiffs Elyse Dickerson and Susan Orr.
Sanford said: "As a result of our 2010 verdict, Novartis has done great things to improve the workplace conditions at Novartis Pharmaceuticals.
"But as this case demonstrates, there is considerable work to be done to ensure that female employees in the Alcon division receive equal treatment."
"Novartis bought Alcon soon after the verdict against Novartis Pharmaceuticals came down. Now, it’s time for the Alcon division to receive the same degree of oversight and change that was imposed on Novartis Pharmaceuticals."
Image: Novartis headquarters in Basel Switzerland. Photo: courtesy of Andrew.