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Insurance company to pay $20M to settle discrimination suit

Posted at 9:43 AM, Jan 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-10 11:43:42-05

DENVER (AP) — An insurance company has agreed to pay $20.5 million to settle claims that it discriminated against black and female employees in Denver and Nashville, Tennessee.

A complaint filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claimed black employees at Jackson National Life Insurance were passed over for promotions and were paid less than their white counterparts, The Denver Post reported Thursday. The complaint also outlined a hostile work environment that included sexual harassment, racially demeaning cartoons and slurs.

About $15 million will go to the 21 claimants, and $5 million will go to attorney fees and costs, according to the EEOC. The company also must train employees on discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

“We hope this sends a message to the financial industry to take discrimination against people of color and women seriously,” said Mary Jo O’Neill, an attorney for the federal agency.

Jackson spokesman Patrick Rich said the company agreed to settle the lawsuit to “move forward.”

“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,” he said. “This is concerning to us, as it is not consistent with who we strive to be.”

Joining the lawsuit were 13 black employees, seven white women and a white vice president who was allegedly fired for refusing to give a negative evaluation to two black employees who had complained.

Jackson National Life Insurance, based in Lansing, Michigan, is a subsidiary of the United Kingdom-based Prudential plc, and employs 4,000 people nationally. It reported $257 billion in assets in fiscal year 2018, according to the company’s website.