One of America's Most Sexist Companies was on Working Mother magazine's Best 100 List.

What women really think about news, politics, and culture.
May 24 2010 3:34 PM

How Could One of America's Most Sexist Companies End Up on Working Mother's Best 100 List?

And what does that say about American employers' glowing reports about their own "family-friendliness"?

(Continued from Page 1)

Because the 12 women represent a class of female Novartis employees, now 5,588 other female employees of the maker of Ex-Lax, Bufferin, and NoDoz can apply for damages. With up to 2.6 percent of the Swiss company's 2009 revenue at stake, the decision is a serious warning to employers of the potential costs of operating like an old-boys' club.

Novartis isn't alone in having serious dissonance between its official policies and the experiences of its female workers. Thirty-six companies that have been on Working Mother's 100 Best Companies list have faced "family responsibilities discrimination" suits filed by employees who are pregnant or care for young children, sick family members, or aging parents, according to Calvert. Plaintiffs prevailed in 15 of those cases, including in suits against Deloitte & Touche and Ernst & Young, two accounting firms often heralded for their efforts to retain women by instituting family-friendly policies.

In many ways, Novartis fits right in with patterns observed in this emerging legal area. With more than 2100 family responsibilities discrimination cases having taken place so far, lawyers in the field have begun to make classifications among them, coining terms like "maternal wall discrimination" to describe cases involving working mothers, "new supervisor syndrome," in which a working parent doesn't run into trouble until a new boss comes along, or "second child bias." (Ditto, except it's a second baby that comes along.) Even the abortion comment can be seen as part of a trend, since at least seven of these suits have involved employers encouraging female workers to abort.


This behavior isn't new, of course. But the fact that that mothers and other caregivers are increasingly filing—and winning—suits against employers is new. Such cases having increased almost 400 percent over the past decade. Among more than 2,100 suits tracked by the Center for WorkLife Law, the employee either won or reached a favorable settlement in more than half (a rate that's higher than in other kinds of employment cases).

That's good news, and this latest victory will stand as a warning to companies. Still, the decision is only part of what will probably be a long process of combating discrimination in the workplace. For now, Novartis is planning to appeal the ruling, while Working Mother is considering whether to bar the pharmaceutical company from its list. Working Mother's Evans says her company is not planning on changing the methodology it uses to compile its list, though, because it's succeeded in getting companies to compete with one another to be family-friendlier.

Perhaps so. But if this is what it's like to work for one of our country's 100 best companies for working mothers, one shudders to imagine what it'd be like to work for one of the worst.

Like  DoubleX on Facebook. Follow us on  Twitter.



Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Damned Spot
Sept. 30 2014 9:00 AM Now Stare. Don’t Stop. The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 30 2014 10:10 AM A Lovable Murderer and Heroic Villain: The Story of Australia's Most Iconic Outlaw
  Double X
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal. But… What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.