On March 5, 2010, a jury in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia found Novartis Pharmaceuticals liable for retaliation in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), awarding Mary Kate Breeden over $289,669 in back pay. Under the FMLA’s liquidated damages provision, this amount is automatically doubled and entered as a partial judgment of $579,338. The District Court has yet to decide the amount of front pay, attorney fees, and costs to award.
Kate Breeden worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative for Novartis. After announcing that she was pregnant, Novartis cut her sales territory in half leaving her with fewer and smaller accounts. When she objected to the change, her supervisor said it was temporary and that she would be made “whole.” Upon returning from maternity leave, Ms. Breeden was informed that the changes were permanent. Novartis later reorganized the sales territories again, at which time they consolidated her territory with another and eliminated her position. Defending their actions, Novartis claimed that an outside consulting firm organized the realignment and did not take Ms. Breeden’s FMLA leave into account. However, her maternity leave was mentioned in a Powerpoint presentation given by the consulting firm.
The jury found that Novartis retaliated against Ms. Breeden by cutting her sales territory when she announced that she was going to take leave or later when Novartis refused to make her “whole” after she returned to work, ultimately hurting her career and leading to her termination. Ms. Breeden is represented by Adam Augustine Carter and R. Scott Oswald, Principals at The Employment Law Group® law firm. For more information about Mr. Carter, Mr. Oswald and the firm’s Family and Medical Leave Act Discrimination Practice, click here.