Novo faces sales-rep action on OT pay

Now it's Novo Nordisk in the legal hot seat on sales rep pay. The same law firm that has represented drug reps suing Merck and Merck's Schering-Plough unit filed the suit against Novo, alleging that the Danish company failed to pay drug reps the overtime they were owed under California law. It's just the latest in a rash of suits contesting the notion that reps qualify for overtime exemptions.

The release from the Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik firm doesn't say how many employees are involved in the suit. Nor does it disclose how much back overtime the plaintiffs are seeking. It does set out the rationale for the claim: The California Labor Code requires overtime pay for work beyond 8 hours a day. Outside salespeople are exempt under that law, of course, but the firm alleges that pharma reps aren't eligible for that exemption because they don't close sales.

"In the Novo Nordisk overtime class action lawsuit, the pharmaceutical sales reps allege that they were not actually making sales but rather promoting prescription drugs to physicians," the statement says. "At most, the physician can agree to prescribe the medicine to patients as needed, but cannot actually buy the prescription medicine from the pharmaceutical sales reps directly."

That's a common claim in recent overtime lawsuits against drugmakers, but other pharma-rep overtime claims have cited federal law. In fact, as Law360 reports, Novo has asked that the would-be class action be moved to federal court. Novo cited the Class Action Fairness Act, which stipulates that suits seeking more than $5 million on behalf of plaintiffs with "diverse citizenship" fall under federal jurisdiction.

- get the release from Blumenthal, Nordrehaug
- read the Reuters story
- see the Law360 coverage