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US Supreme Court Denies Certiorari and Thereby Leaves in Place Second Circuit Ruling That Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation Must Pay its Sales Representatives Overtime Compensation

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Supreme Court today denied Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation's petition for certiorari, thereby refusing to disturb the liability judgment against Novartis issued by the Second Circuit in In re Novartis Wage & Hour Litigation, 611 F.3d 141 (2010). The Second Circuit held that thousands of U.S. sales representatives ("Reps") employed by Novartis are entitled to overtime pay because the Reps are not subject to either the "Outside Sales" or "Administrative" exemptions to overtime compensation under Federal, New York and California law.

In so ruling, the Second Circuit gave controlling deference to the opinion of the U.S. Secretary of Labor, who filed an amicus brief supporting the position that two exclusions to overtime pay – the Outside Sales and Administrative exemptions – did not apply to Novartis's Reps.

"The Court's denial of certiorari to Novartis is a victory for thousands of the company's Reps who labored long and hard for Novartis – often working over 70 hours a week – and yet were denied the overtime pay that is their due," said David Sanford, founding partner in Sanford Wittels & Heisler, LLP ("SWH"), the law firm representing the Novartis Reps.  "Everybody knows that justice delayed is justice denied.  We are hopeful that Novartis will do the right thing and carry out the Second Circuit's ruling by immediately instituting an overtime compensation system for its Reps and paying the Reps the overtime monies that the company has withheld for so many years."

Another SWH partner, Jeremy Heisler, pointed out that New York state recently amended its overtime laws and, effective April 11, 2011, an employer who fails to pay its employees required overtime compensation is subject to increased penalties.  "We are sure Novartis is aware of this development and will act accordingly to bring the Novartis overtime litigation to a just and expeditious resolution."

SWH serves as Lead or co-Lead Counsel for four new and nearly identical wage and hour class action suits now pending against other pharmaceutical companies by their U.S. sales representatives, including suits against Pfizer, Roche, Merck and Abbott Laboratories. SWH also recently secured the largest jury award in the U.S. in an employment discrimination case in May 2010 when a jury returned a verdict of $253 million in compensatory and punitive damage against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.  Novartis subsequently settled that case for $175 million.

About SWH

Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP (SWH) is a law firm with offices in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco that specializes in employment discrimination, wage and hour, consumer and complex corporate class action litigation and has represented thousands of individuals in some of the major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents individual clients in employment, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, whistleblower, public accommodations, commercial, medical malpractice, and personal injury matters.

SOURCE Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP
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