Jackson National Life Insurance settles EEOC racial and sexual discrimination, will pay $20.5 million

The ruling represents the largest settlement ever reached in the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Denver and Phoenix office

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Jackson National Life Insurance will pay Black and female employees in Denver and Nashville $20.5 million for racial and sexual discrimination, which represents the largest discrimination settlement ever reached in the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Denver and Phoenix office.

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The 21 employees filed the EEOC complaint about receiving less pay than their white colleagues and after being passed over for promotions, reported The Denver Post. The employees also complained that they were subjected to sexual harassment and were referred to by slurs, including “lazy” and “resident streetwalkers.”

The complaint details how one manager routinely made comments about workers’ breasts and another instructed a Black woman to get on her knees as he held a bottle of vodka over her as to pour it on her, according to the complaint. In one instance, employees made clicking noises around an Ethiopian man. A white vice president says he was fired for refusing to give a bad evaluation to two Black employees who complained.

In total, 13 Black employees, seven white women and the white male vice president who was fired were claimants in the suit. The four-year consent decree that Jackson National settled with the employees outlines that the company pays $15 million to the 21 claimants and the remainder will cover attorney fees and other related costs, according to The Denver Post.

An EEOC lawyer said she hopes the settlement “sends a message to the whole financial industry.”

“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,” Mary Jo O’Neill, EEOC regional attorney, told The Denver Post.

Patrick Rich, a spokesman for Jackson National Life Insurance, told the newspaper that the company settled so they could “move forward.”

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