Employment Law Daily Former Teva Pharmaceuticals exec awarded $6.134M on retaliation claims
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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Former Teva Pharmaceuticals exec awarded $6.134M on retaliation claims

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

After a week-long trial, a federal jury in Philadelphia unanimously came in on the side a former Teva Pharmaceuticals USA executive, awarding him a total of $6.134 million after finding the employer had retaliated against him and subjected him to a retaliatory hostile work environment for his complaints about age discrimination and national origin discrimination against U.S. workers, according to his lawyers.

The employee was by far the oldest of his peers and also only one of two employees of American origin among his Israeli supervisor’s direct reports, according to the Second Amended Complaint. He brought claims of age, national origin, and retaliation discrimination under the ADEA and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. In August 2018, the court denied Teva’s motion for summary judgement.

Discrimination and retaliation. The employee alleged that 12 years after he was hired, he was promoted to North American Director of Facilities. That same year, Teva selected an individual born and based in Israel to lead its newly created Global Group and in November 2014, the Israeli manager selected the employee as Senior Director, Facility Management for the North American Group. Before he selected him, however, he asked the employee his age and when he planned to retire. In January 2015, the Israeli manager provided the employee with his 2014 annual review, assessing his overall performance as “mostly meets” expectations, a downward departure from earlier reviews.

In June 2015, two Israeli members of the Global Group met with the employee and his team to discuss the annual operating plan. After the meeting, members of the employee’s team complained to an HR senior manager about perceived age and cultural bias by the Israelis, the employee alleged. A formal investigation ensued, prompting the Israeli manager to purportedly tell the employee “a good manager would have controlled his people and it never would have gotten this far.”

The investigation revealed that Teva’s Israeli-based management asked the employee and some of his team members to supply the ages of employees or directly asked for their ages, according to the employee. It also noted a perceived cultural bias against Americans. Although the investigator recommended cultural and sensitivity training for the Israeli manager and the two Israeli Global Group members, as well as counseling for the two Israeli Global Group members, no action was taken, the employee asserted.

One week after the Israeli manager received the report, he gave the employee a negative mid-year review. A week later, the employee was placed on a performance improvement plan, which was extended to the end of February 2016. He was fired on February 29 and replaced by a 38-year-old.

Jury award. The jury found in the employee’s favor, and awarded him $200,000 for emotional distress damages, $332,000 in back pay, $450,000 in front pay, liquidated damages of $332,000, and punitive damages of $5,000,000, according to Console Mattiacci Law, the firm that represented him.

The case, Middlebrooks v Teva, was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; it is No. 17-cv-00412.

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