Posted October 6th, 2017.
By Kat Greene
Law360, Los Angeles (October 6, 2017, 10:38 PM EDT) — Forest Laboratories Inc. agreed to pay $4 million to settle claims by a group of female employees who had accused the company of widespread gender discrimination, ending years of litigation in the dispute, according to a proposal filed in New York federal court Friday.
The Actavis PLC unit will shell out the sum to cover a payout to female sales force employees who worked at the company for at least one day between Feb. 6, 2010, and April 3, 2017, according to the proposal. The women had claimed they earned less than their male colleagues despite equal or better work performance, saying the company maintained a culture of discrimination.
“The percentage of the potential recovery represented by this settlement is well within the range courts have accepted as reasonable, particularly in a complex case where the risks are significant,” the women said in their proposal. “The settlement provides substantial relief to the class members and will be distributed to them in a matter of months, rather than after years of further litigation and appeals.”
The deal punctuates five years of litigation in which the 11 named plaintiffs told stories of unfair treatment and, in some cases, unwanted sexual harassment that went unanswered by the company’s human resources department, according to case filings.
Per the terms of the deal in Friday’s motion for preliminary approval, the attorneys for the class plan to seek $1.6 million in fees and costs, plus $15,000 for each of the named plaintiffs, among other smaller service awards, leaving an approximately $2 million pool to pay out to the class members.
That, according to the motion, represents about 17 percent of the total estimated damages in the case, which the workers said is in line with an acceptable recovery for a class action settlement.
The class representatives also had individual claims against the company and its executives, according to the amended complaint. For example, Megan Barrett accused the company of violating the Family and Medical Leave Act for putting her on probation after she returned from maternity leave because it counted the unworked time as days she didn’t make sales.
Several women named in the suit also lodged a retaliation claim, and two — Jennifer Jones and Christy Lowder — accused the company and its brass of fostering a hostile work environment after they faced sexual harassment that went unaddressed by managers and the corporation.
Forest settled the individual claims with each class representative in separate agreements that included separate monetary deals not disclosed in the terms of the proposal filed Friday, according to the motion.
The settlement comes two years after U.S. District Judge Michael H. Dolinger set the cutoff date for a collective of workers with Equal Pay Act claims who worked for the company as a sales representative as of May 22, 2012, rejecting the plaintiffs’ argument that notice should extend 10 months earlier.
“We are delighted that the parties have reached a fair resolution to this gender discrimination class matter,” David Sanford of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP, who represents the workers, said in a statement on Saturday.
A representative for Forest didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment after business hours on Friday.
The plaintiffs are represented by Deborah Marcuse of Feinstein Doyle Payne & Kravec LLC, and Michael Palmer, David Tracey, David Sanford and Thomas Henderson of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP.
The defendants are represented by Michael S. Burkhardt, Blair J. Robinson, Krissy Anne Katzenstein and Lauren Emmaline Marzullo of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP.
The case is Barrett et al. v. Forest Laboratories Inc. et al., case number 1:12-cv-05224, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
–Additional reporting by Kelly Knaub. Editing by Catherine Sum.