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Valeant Unit Settles Sex Discrimination Claims For $7.2M

Law360, Los Angeles (July 12, 2016, 4:56 PM EDT) — Valeant-owned Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp. will pay $7.2 million to settle a class action alleging gender discrimination and other claims brought by female sales representatives of the medical cosmetics company, according to a final settlement order signed by a D.C. federal judge Monday.
The final settlement order, which includes $2.8 million in class counsel attorneys’ fees, resolves allegations of disparate compensation and bonuses, a sexually hostile workplace environment and retaliation by scores of women once employed by the formerly Scottsdale, Arizona-headquartered Medicis.
The class, incorporating 225 women, includes those female sales or sales managerial employees employed directly by Medicis or indirectly through employment-assisting companies Quintiles, Innovex or QFR Solutions in the aesthetics or dermatology divisions between April 15, 2008, and Dec. 10, 2012.
Medicis was acquired by pharmaceutical giant Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. on Dec. 11, 2012. The plaintiffs’ Sept. 5, 2013, complaint related to claims of sex discrimination and a hostile workplace prior to the acquisition as the result of actions perpetuated by Medicis’ former CEO Jonah Shacknai and other senior-level male management that trickled down throughout the workplace.
According to a May motion for final approval of the settlement, the $7.2 million deal reflects “extensive discussion and negotiation between the parties” prompted by “years of investigation, including interviews with female field sales representatives” and statistical analysis of human resources data.
Nearly 100 claims of sexual harassment were filed against Medicis as of Nov. 18, 2015, concerning acts that took place during the class period, according to that motion, with 60 percent of those claims containing specific allegations of a hostile work environment.
A total seven female lead plaintiffs who worked as sales representatives for Medicis alleged a suite of hostile, harassing and disparate treatment by male superiors or co-workers in their complaint bringing claims of violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Generally, the complaint alleged lower pay for female employees, reduced bonuses and shabbier stock options plus the fact that male management suppressed women from holding senior or executive-level sales management positions.
Moreover, the lead plaintiffs alleged female sales employees in the aesthetics and dermatology divisions were subjected to a “sexually hostile and demeaning work environment” including lewd jokes, name-calling and “offensive stereotypical comments about women, pregnancy and caregiving” perpetuated by senior executives.
Additionally, the women alleged that Medicis encouraged its employees to drink and socialize with one another and condoned sexual relationships between female sales associates and their male supervisors.
“Several senior executives engaged in sexual relationships with female sales employees or talked as if they had done so,” the complaint alleged. “Female sales employees who did not participate in this culture were disfavored by centralized group of senior sales executives in the terms, conditions and privileges of employment.”
One of the lead plaintiffs, Bonnie Brown, said her supervisor at Medicis created nicknames for female employees such as “Kitty Cat” and “Ice Queen” and said she witnessed male employees make sexual advances toward their female counterparts at business functions.
Another lead plaintiff, Lisa Cummings-Gallina, alleged that during a job interview with Medicis in 2007, she was asked by a small group of male senior executives “why she would want to work when she had young children and her husband was a surgeon.”
Laurie Introp, another lead plaintiff, alleged that Medicis’ former director of public relations, Louis Frisina, advised her once that her relationship with a then-Medicis executive vice president, Rick Havens, “could improve if she were to either ‘sleep with him, or have a menage a trois’ with him and another female employee,” according to the complaint.
The $7.2 million settlement, signed off by U.S. District Richard J. Leon on Monday, provides for a $4.4 million payout for claims, according to the final settlement order, with the D.C.-based Mehri & Skalet PLLC and Garden City, New York-based Valli Kane & Vagnini LLP appointed as class counsel.
A representative for Valeant didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Class counsel for the plaintiffs couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
The plaintiffs are represented by Cyrus Mehri and Michael D. Lieder of Mehri & Skalet PLLC and Robert J. Valli Jr. and Sara Wyn Kane of Valli Kane & Vagnini LLP.
Medicis is represented by Kathryn F. Lazarev, William Kyle Tayman, James W. Nagle and Wilfred J. Benoit Jr. of Goodwin Procter LLP.
The case is Bonnie Brown et al. v. Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation, case number 1:13-cv-01345 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
–By Suevon Lee, Reporter
–Editing by Kelly Duncan
Read the original article from Law360

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