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At Novartis, nursery rhymes are in, motherhood out

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

That’s what a dozen female Novartis employees, recently granted class-action certification in Manhattan federal court, will try to prove in their gender discrimination suit against the Maalox maker.

The women claim that Novartis denied them promotions that went to men, paid them less than male employees and harassed them about pregnancy. One plaintiff says when she told her boss she was pregnant, he responded: “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes flex time and a baby carriage.”

The lawsuit alleges one manager advised women during training not to get pregnant, then said, “Oops, too late,” to an expectant mother among the participants; another encouraged an employee to get an abortion.

Advice: Off-the-cuff comments (particularly memorable ones set to rhyme) can have a long shelf life in court. Remind managers that their words—and the attitudes underneath—need to be nondiscriminatory.

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