Teva hit with $6.3M retaliation verdict in age, anti-American discrimination suit

Gavel
Jurors sided with plaintiff Stephen Middlebrooks in his lawsuit against Teva, in which claimed he was fired in retaliation for his complaints. (Pixabay)

Only months after a judge ruled that Teva must face a lawsuit from former manager Stephen Middlebrooks alleging retaliation, age discrimination and anti-American bias, jurors ruled in favor of the plaintiff and ordered Teva to pay $6.3 million in damages.   

Middlebrooks, a former Teva employee who started at the company in 2001 and worked his way up to the position of senior director of facility management in late 2013, sued Teva early last year, claiming retaliation and discrimination. Teva moved to dismiss the suit, but a judge ruled in September that Teva must face the claims. The trial started in mid-November, according to court records.  

Middlebrooks claims he did his job duties in a "highly competent manner," but when he was assigned to work under an Israeli-based manager who was 14 years his junior, he was subjected to discriminatory conduct and received negative performance reviews.

After the one-week trial in Pennsylvania federal court, jurors concluded that Middlebrooks was retaliated against and subjected to a hostile work environment, according to employment rights firm Console Mattiacci Law. The jury ordered Teva to pay $200,000 in emotional distress damages, $332,000 in back pay, $450,000 in additional pay, liquidated damages of $332,000 and $5 million in punitive damages, according to the firm.

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A Teva spokeswoman said the company is "committed to a fostering an equal opportunity, diverse, inclusive and high-performing workforce." She added that Teva is "pleased that the jury rejected each of the discrimination claims brought by Stephen Middlebrooks in his lawsuit and plans to appeal the jury’s verdict on the remaining claim of retaliation."

RELATED: Israel-based Teva faces age and 'anti-American' bias claims from former U.S. staffer 

Middlebrooks’ suit alleged that after his promotion, his younger manager gave him a series of negative performance reviews. In one instance, two Israel-based managers came to the Pennsylvania office for a meeting, and afterward one employee filed a complaint of age discrimination and another complained about a hostile work environment, according to the suit. 

After an internal investigation, Teva’s U.S. director of human resources recommended Israel-based managers receive “cultural and sensitivity training," according to the suit.

One week after that investigation and report, Middlebrooks received another negative performance review, according to the suit. At age 58, he was fired and replaced by a 38-year-old manager. 

RELATED: Teva's stunning list of cuts targets 14K jobs, $3B in costs and plants around the globe 

On the anti-American claims, Middlebrooks’ suit says his manager made comments suggesting that Americans "did a poor job of supporting Israel in its military actions in the Middle East," and that they have a "narrow-minded perception of Israelis."  

The legal loss for Teva comes as the drugmaker works through a massive turnaround that includes plant closures and thousands of layoffs. After purchasing Allergan’s generic offerings in 2015 for more than $40 billion, generic pricing has gone downhill in the U.S., hurting Teva’s fortunes and outlook. Meanwhile, Teva is also facing generic competition to its key multiple sclerosis product Copaxone.