An insurance company accused by multiple black and female employees of racial and sexual discrimination in its Denver and Nashville offices has reached a $20.5 million settlement in a federal lawsuit. According to The Denver Post, this is the largest settlement ever reached in the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Denver and Phoenix office.
The complaints were filed against Jackson National Life Insurance, which is a subsidiary of UK-based insurance giant, Prudential plc. According to court documents, black and female employees at the firm allegedly endured sexual harassment, and racially demeaning cartoons and slurs that referred to them as “lazy” and “resident street walkers,” among other things. They also claim they were paid less than white colleagues and passed over for promotions.
A Denver Post court report also describes incidents where a manager repeatedly commented on an employee’s breasts, and another in which a top saleswoman was ordered to get on her knees while her boss mimicked a sex act with a vodka bottle at a company party.
The lawsuit was filed against the insurance company by thirteen black employees, seven white women and a vice president of the firm. While the court reached no conclusion of official violation by Jackson National Life Insurance, the firm agreed to a four-year consent decree, which includes a payment of $20.5 million in attorney fees, damages and costs, approximately $15 million of which will go to the 21 claimants.
The Denver Post reported a Jackson National Life Insurance Company spokesman as saying: “While there has been no finding by a court or jury that Jackson violated any laws, we’re 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. This is concerning to us, as it is not consistent with who we strive to be.”
EEOC regional attorney Mary Jo O’Neill said she hopes the case sends a message to the whole financial services industry. She commented: “This is an industry where there are very well-paying jobs and it’s long been the domain of white males. We hope this sends a message to the financial industry to take discrimination against people of color and women seriously.”