Jackson Tolerated Harassment, Discriminated Against Female and African American Employees in Promotions and Pay, and Retaliated Against Employees Who Complained, Federal Agency Charged
DENVER, Colo. - Jackson National Life Insurance Company, Jackson National Life Distributors, LLC, and Jackson National Life Insurance Company of New York (collectively, "Jackson") will pay $20,500,000 to 21 complainants and furnish other relief to settle the EEOC's claims in a race, national origin, and sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
The EEOC's lawsuit, filed in September 2016, charged that Jackson tolerated a work environment hostile to female and African American employees in Jackson's Denver and Nashville offices. EEOC alleged that African-American employees were referred to as "lazy," had stress balls thrown at them, and were subjected to racially demeaning cartoons. EEOC further alleged a high-level manager referred to multiple African American female employees as "resident street walkers" and that female employees endured sexual comments and leering from male coworkers. EEOC alleged that at least one high-level manager kissed subordinate females on their lips, and much of the hostile work environment involved conduct by high-level managers and executives.
EEOC's suit also alleged that Jackson discriminated against African American and female employees in the terms and conditions of employment, such as paying them inferior compensation and regularly passing them over for promotion, and selecting less-qualified, white male employees over the complainants. Finally, EEOC charged that Jackson retaliated against employees who filed charges of discrimination with the EEOC or otherwise opposed discrimination. In particular, Jackson fired a white vice president who refused to give a negative evaluation and a disciplinary warning to two African American female employees who had complained.
All this alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits race, sex, and national origin discrimination and retaliation. The EEOC filed its lawsuit, EEOC et al. v. Jackson National Life Insurance Company et al., Civil Action No. 16-cv-02472-PAB-SKC, in United States District Court for the District of Colorado after first attempting to reach a settlement through its pre-litigation conciliation process.
The four-year consent decree, which provides $20,500,000 in damages, attorneys fees, and costs to 21 former Jackson employees, is the largest monetary settlement ever reached by the EEOC's Phoenix District and Denver Field Offices. In addition to the monetary relief, the consent decree enjoins Jackson from engaging in future violations of Title VII, 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. The consent decree requires Jackson to designate an Internal Compliance Monitor and to retain an outside consultant to review its EEO policies, promotional and compensation practices and data, and future complaints of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Additionally, the decree requires that Jackson train employees on discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Jackson managers and supervisors will be rated on their compliance with EEO policies and laws prohibiting discrimination and retaliation.
"We hope that the results in this case will send an important message to the financial industry that race and sex harassment and refusing to promote and pay employees based on sex, race, or national origin are illegal and will not be tolerated," said EEOC Phoenix District Office Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "We are gratified that this decree will provide significant compensation to former Jackson employees whose careers were thwarted by these discriminatory practices. These former employees have been very brave to stand up for their rights."
Amy Burkholder, director of EEOC's Denver Field Office, added, "Over 50% of EEOC charges contain a retaliation allegation. In this case, one white employee refused to write up black employees who had complained about discrimination, and he was fired the next day. Employers should bear in mind that retaliation is as illegal as race and sex discrimination."
The EEOC's Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction over Arizona, Colorado, parts of New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.