LANSING, MI (WILX) Jackson National Life Insurance has agreed to pay $20.5 million to 21 former employees to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit. The Equal Employment Opportunity filed the suit against the company in 2016.
The suit claims women and black employees were routinely discriminated against and forced to tolerate a hostile work environment at the company's offices in Denver and Nashville. The claims include the following:
- black employees referred to as "lazy"
- black employee subjected to racially demeaning cartoons
- a manager referring to black female employees as "resident street walkers"
- female employees forced to endure sexual comments and leering from male coworkers
- a high-level manager kissing female subordinates on the lips
- female and black employees paid inferior compensation and passed over for promotion to the benefit of less-qualified white men
- retaliation against employees who filed discrimination complaints
- a white vice president fired for refusing to give a negative evaluation and disciplinary warning to two black female employees who complained
In addition to the $20.5 million settlement, Jackson National will be bound by the terms of a four-year consent decree. It says the company cannot violate federal anti-discrimination laws including "creating or tolerating a hostile work environment based on race, color, sex and/or national origin, and discrimination in promotion, compensation, and other terms and conditions of employment." Jackson National must also do the following:
- designate an Internal Compliance Monitor
- retain an outside consultant to review its Equal Employment Opportunity policies, promotional and compensation practices and data, and future complaints of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation
- train employees on discrimination, harassment, and retaliation
- have managers and supervisors rated on their compliance with EEO policies and laws prohibiting discrimination and retaliation
Jackson National released a statement to wilx.com saying it is "Strongly committed to providing equal opportunity to all employees," and that it "Does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind." It says the company felt settling the lawsuit was best for everyone involved and that it recognizes the plaintiffs feel they were not treated fairly. The full statement is included at the end of this story.
None of the allegations or complaints involved Jackson National's offices in Lansing or East Lansing. The complaints came out of the Denver and Nashville offices.
“Jackson is strongly committed to providing equal opportunity to all employees. Jackson does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind, and we maintain and enforce high standards of conduct for how our associates interact with consumers, business partners and each other. These standards are reflected in policies, procedures and mandatory training we regularly review and enhance to ensure they are consistent with best practices and the law.
Jackson chose to resolve this matter at this time as the best option to move forward for all parties. 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. This is concerning to us, as it is not consistent with who we strive to be. This experience provides an opportunity to re-affirm our commitment to our core values, enhance our policies and practices, and continue to make Jackson a great place to work.”