An insurance company will be paying $20.5 million to settle claims that it discriminated against its black and female employees. The settlement is the largest agreement ever reached in the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Denver and Phoenix office.
The suite stated that Jackson National Life Insurance passed over black employees for promotions and paid them less than their white colleagues. According to the complaint filed by the EEOC, they also endured a hostile work environment that included sexual harassment, racially demeaning cartoons, being called “lazy” and “resident streetwalkers,” among other slurs.
The complaint mentioned that employees would make clicking noises around one man of Ethiopian descent. It also stated that one manager repeatedly made comments about employees’ breasts, and another told a black woman to get on her knees at a company party while holding a bottle of liquor horizontally.
The insurance company is now under a 4-year consent decree and was ordered to pay $20.5 million in attorney fees, damages, and costs. About $15 million of it will go to the 21 claimants, wherein 13 are black employees, 7 are white women, and 1 is the white vice president who was fired. The $5 million will go to attorney fees and costs.
The consent decree requires the company to designate an internal monitor to ensure they don’t violate employees’ civil rights again. They must also work with an outside consultant to review its equal employment opportunity policies, promotion and compensation practices and any future complaints of discrimination.
The company must also train employees on discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
A spokesman for the company said they have agreed to settle the lawsuit to be able to “move forward.”
“While there has been no finding by a court or jury that Jackson violated any laws, we are humbled and recognize that the associates who made claims in this case believe they were not treated fairly or in a way that aligns with Jackson’s core values,” spokesman Patrick Rich said. “This is concerning to us, as it is not consistent with who we strive to be.”