Legal Briefing: Rape Testimony Devastating in Novartis Sex Discrimination Case A daily look at legal news and the business of law:

Allegedly Raped Sales Representative Testifies of Retaliation

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.

Whether that will be the outcome of this suit is another matter: To win their case, plaintiffs must have compelling statistical evidence of discrimination, not simply isolated -- if horrendous -- acts of discrimination. The plaintiffs did in fact offer the necessary types of evidence; it remains to be seen whether it was sufficient to convince the jury that there was a pattern of wrongdoing. Still, I'm betting that as the jurors evaluate the dry statistics, their interpretation will be heavily shaded by the devastating testimony they've heard, the worst of which was offered by Marjorie Salame earlier this week.

Salame, a highly successful sales representative for Novartis, was on track to break into management when she was raped by the buddy of a "top prescribing doctor" who was the "best friend" of her boss, she testified. (Incidentally, that "top prescriber" had propositioned her at another company-sponsored event a couple of weeks earlier. Salame said that he told her, in front of her supervisor, that he'd taken a Viagra, had "blue steel" and wanted to take her to the "red barn.") The rape allegedly occurred after a Novartis golfing event that Salame had hosted for two doctors. Following the game, Salame's car keys were missing -- she suspects her boss's friend took them from her purse -- and when his buddy offered her a ride, instead of taking her home, he took her to a remote location and attacked her. Although her supervisor was initially supportive, Salame said, that later changed. Within a few weeks, she was being interviewed by a human resources executive and her supervisor in a hotel lobby, an event she described in part this way:

Salame: "Having to discuss the details of the night of that assault was extremely difficult. So I looked down. And Mr. Robinson 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."

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.

On the Goldman Criminal Probe

It's too early say much about the Department of Justice investigation of Goldman Sachs (GS); probes don't necessarily lead to charges, nor do they go quickly. This probe could become broader than the SEC case, or it could stay focused on it. It was initiated because of the SEC referral, and was requested by more than 60 members of Congress. Does that make the investigation politically motivated? No. SEC referrals to the Department of Justice are not unusual, nor is the DOJ's decision to open an investigation based on such a referral.

Bottom line: Nobody, not even the DOJ, really knows at this point where the probe will lead, or when.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Basics of Diversification

Learn one of the fundamental concepts of building a portfolio.

View Course »

Investing Like Warren Buffett

Learn from one of the world's best investors.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum