Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Novartis Sex Discrimination Case Includes Testimony Of Rape By Boss's Friend

Too many people continue to minimize sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere as something those targeted are supposed to just deal with. Civil lawsuits related to sexual discrimination are often dismissed across the board as frivolous. But there is nothing truly frivolous about employees who practice sexual discrimination in any form and there is nothing frivolous if 1 person's wrongdoing is enabled or supported by others in that company.

Accountability and responsibility are too often something which are only required of those who are sexually harassed, sexually assaulted or discriminated against. A recent civil case against the healthcare products company Novartis highlights actions for which the company should be held accountable.

When the Novartis sex discrimination trial started, two very different pictures of the company were offered to the public: one, a place that gave women, particularly pregnant women, lower pay and fewer promotions than men who performed equally well; the other, an employer that Working Mother magazine had repeatedly ranked as one of the 100 best places to work. Now that plaintiffs have called their final witness, it's obvious that Novartis (NVS) treated at least some women so badly that Novartis should pay them, big time.
From the civil trial where former sales rep Marjorie Salame testifies about the response to her disclosure that she was raped after a Novartis golfing event:
Salame: "Having to discuss the details of the night of that assault was extremely difficult. So I looked down. And Mr. Robinson [a company HR executive] asked me if that was it when I finished. And then he told me to look him in the eyes. And he got up in my face and pointed in my face and told me, "Look me in the eyes when I'm talking to you so I can see that you can hear what I'm saying to you. And then he started to tell me how I should have had another set of keys. That my phone was low on battery that night, I should have went to a landline. Asking me how much I had to drink. Telling me how I needed to take accountability for what happened that night."

Lawyer: "Did Regional Director Robinson say anything else to you?"

Salame: "Yes. He said I need to stop calling HR; that HR is not for me; that HR is only for [Robinson] and my manager, Joseph Simmons."
The victim-blaming response which includes the demand for accountability from someone who has disclosed being raped is far too common, but if people are supposed to be accountable that must include those who demand accountability from rape victims.
Over the next months, Salame's career at Novartis was completely derailed, and ultimately ended. The transcript of the day's testimony, which includes her full story, is linked to in the bnet article.
I hope the jury takes these individual actions seriously and sees that when a HR executive resorts to victim blaming in an official meeting that the company must be held accountable.

The case against Novartis gets worse.
Joseph Simmons, a Novartis district manager, stopped short Monday of admitting that he lied during the police investigation into the alleged assault of the sales employee he supervised, Marjorie Salame.

However, he admitted that he never told the police about a contrite phone call he received from the alleged assailant, who attended the golfing event and is a longtime friend of a paid consultant for Novartis.
Withholding evidence in a criminal rape investigation is colluding with an alleged rapist. Since the alleged rapist wasn't charged this withholding of information may have made a critical difference in the criminal case.

Update 5/21: Novartis lost.
Pharmaceutical company Novartis AG (NOVN.VX) (NVS.N) engaged in a pattern of discrimination against women at one of its divisions, a U.S. jury ruled on Monday, awarding compensatory damages of $3.3 million to 12 women and soon to be determined punitive damages to a larger group.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:18 AM   1 comments links to this post


At May 04, 2010 10:53 AM, Anonymous gidget commando said...

That guy's behavior reeks of privilege. I'm disgusted. I hope the suit strips him bare, leaves him begging, and makes good people everywhere shun the bastard. Can we please bring back shunning? I think it's overdue for a comeback.


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