Rise in Discrimination Class Action Settlements

March 13, 2011, by Kristan Peters-Hamlin

The Annual Workplace Class Action Litigation Report indicates that there has been a quadrupling in the value of class action employment discrimination settlements just in the past year. In 2010, the value of the top ten settlements was $346 million, and four-fold increase from 2009, when it was $84.4 million.

The Velez v. Novartis Corp. settlement, a federal case from the Southern District of New York, accounts for over half of this years' total. The case was originally filed in 2004 by Amy Velez and four female coworkers who alleged they were discriminated against on the basis of gender and pregnancy. Last May, Novartis was found liable and ordered to pay $3.4 million to twelve named plaintiffs. The jury also ordered Novartis to pay $250 million in punitive damages to the class of female employees. After appealing, the company later agreed to a $175 million settlement. Of the settlement money, $152.5 million will go directly to the class of 5,600 current and former female employees; the other $22.5 million will be used to address personnel policies at the company, according to a Bloomberg report.