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A federal judge has cleared the way for thousands of female pharmaceutical representatives to tell a jury about alleged discriminatory work practices at Novartis. The Basel, Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant had sought to toss out the class action involving 5,600 sales reps, but instead the judge set a trial date of April 7, 2010, after denying Novartis’ motion for partial summary judgment. “The fact is, a massive amount of paper has been wasted by defendant in a quixotic quest to keep much of plaintiffs’ case from the jury. [Novartis'] effort is in vain,” U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon of the Southern District of New York wrote in her Oct. 20 opinion in Velez v. Novartis. “Plaintiffs have demanded a jury, and a jury they shall have.” “She was able to cut to the chase and see that this was a case where women were long overdue in getting their day in court,” said Steven Wittels of New York’s Sanford Wittels & Heisler, who is representing the plaintiffs. The class action stems from a lawsuit filed in 2004 by 19 female sales reps who alleged the company discriminated against them in several ways, including pay levels, personnel evaluations and promotions. They also claim adverse treatment of women who took leave for pregnancy. “The jury is going to hear woman after woman after woman take the stand from around the U.S. … talking about details of their experiences, and there are some horrific details to be told,” said David Sanford of the Washington office of Sanford Wittels, who is also representing the plaintiffs. Vincent FitzPatrick, a partner in the New York office of White & Case defending Novartis, was not available for comment.

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