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$20.5M: What Jackson National Life Insurance will pay to settle harassment, discrimination, retaliation allegations

By WK Editorial Staff

Jackson allegedly tolerated harassment and discrimination against female and African-American workers in promotions and pay, and it fired a white VP who refused to discipline employees who had complained.

Jackson National Life Insurance Company, Jackson National Life Distributors, LLC, and Jackson National Life Insurance Company of New York have agreed to pay $20,500,000 to 21 complainants and furnish other relief to settle allegations that Jackson violated Title VII by subjecting employees to race, national origin, and sex discrimination and retaliation. The agreement marks the largest monetary settlement ever reached by the EEOC’s Phoenix District and Denver Field Offices.

Harassment. In a September 2016 lawsuit, the EEOC alleged that Jackson tolerated a work environment hostile to female and African-American employees at its Denver and Nashville offices. African-American employees were purportedly referred to as “lazy,” had stress balls thrown at them, and were subjected to racially demeaning cartoons.

A high-level manager allegedly referred to multiple African-American female employees as “resident street walkers,” and female employees purportedly endured sexual comments and leering from male coworkers. At least one high-level manager kissed subordinate females on their lips; much of the hostile work environment involved conduct by high-level managers and executives, according to the EEOC.

Other discrimination. The federal agency also contends 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.

Retaliation. Jackson also purportedly 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, the EEOC said.

Injunctive relief. In addition to the monetary relief, which includes damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs, the four-year consent decree enjoins Jackson from engaging in future Title VII violations and requires the company to: designate an Internal Compliance Monitor and retain an outside consultant to review its EEO policies, promotional and compensation practices and data, as well as future complaints of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation; train employees on discrimination, harassment, and retaliation; and rate managers and supervisors 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 Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the District of Colorado; the case is No. 16-cv-02472-PAB-SKC.