— Washington, DC
On March 5, 2010, a jury in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia rendered a verdict in favor of pharmaceutical sales representative Mary Kate Breeden, awarding $289,669 against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation on her claim of retaliation for taking maternity leave covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the FMLA’s liquidated damages provision, this amount is automatically doubled to $579,338. The District Court has yet to decide the amount front pay, attorney fees, and costs to award.
Mary Kate Breeden worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative for Novartis for over seven (7) years. 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, Breeden was informed that the change was permanent. Novartis reorganized the sales territories again, at which time they consolidated Breeden’s territory with another and eliminated her position. Novartis claimed that an outside consulting firm coordinated the original realignment and did not take Breeden’s FMLA leave into account. However, Breeden’s maternity leave was mentioned in a PowerPoint presentation that the consulting firm prepared about the realignment.
The jury found that Novartis retaliated against Ms. Breeden by cutting her sales territory when she announced that she was going to take leave and when Novartis refused to make her “whole” after she returned to work from FMLA leave, ultimately damaging her career and leading to her termination. Adam Augustine Carter, a Principal at The Employment Law Group® law firm, a premier employment law firm based in D.C., stated, “The jury of 12 believed Ms. Breeden and disbelieved the executives of Novartis in arriving at this verdict. She was committed to her job, but her employer questioned her commitment. No employee should have to choose between having a family or keeping their job, and this jury verdict will help teach that lesson to all employers covered by the FMLA.”