Racial and Sexual Discrimination Allegations at Denver Life Insurance coverage Firm – The Denver Submit

A federal lawsuit charges a Denver life insurance company with racial and sexual discrimination against seven top Denver pension wholesalers and overseers, all of whom were black.

Staff tell of blatant incidents of racist and sexual abuse, including one in which Jackson National Life Insurance Company’s top saleswoman, La’Tonya Ford, was ordered to kneel while her boss and coworkers had sex with a bottle of vodka mimicked laughed. Jackson employees said they were routinely humiliated, denied promotions and bonuses, and were fired if they complained.

Attorneys for the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the civil action in the US District Court in Denver. One of the seven, Kontar Tonee Mwamba, has since died. Plaintiffs are demanding back payment, punitive damages and future loss of wages, according to records from EEOC attorneys and private Denver attorneys Brian Moore, Lynn Feiger and Justin Plaskov.

The incidents allegedly took place at the Denver Tech Center, which is home to the world’s second largest pension company, with annual sales of $ 4 billion in insurance and annuity insurance. The allegedly discriminated against were given top accounts, including Wells Fargo and Chase Bank, but skipped for promotions by lower-skilled white men, the lawsuit said.

Gerald Maatman, a Jackson attorney, said the firm has no comment on any pending litigation, but “Jackson is committed to fair and sensitive treatment of all employees.”

Ford and former Jackson employee Kimberly Funchess recently sat down with The Denver Post to discuss their careers. Both said they felt inspired to speak up on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

At one point, they said, three of the women, including Ford, were huddled in a broom closet and hiding from their bosses because they didn’t want to be seen sobbing.

“You can not see that they have ruined us,” said Ford in an interview. “I didn’t want to give up. They asked us to work 40 hours a week. We worked 80. “

Funchess, who owned her own Allstate Insurance office before being recruited by Jackson, said that despite all the leaps and bounds the country has made since the civil rights movement began, there are still reasons to stand up and fight for civil rights.

“To that extent it is still necessary. I think that’s amazing, ”she said. “This is about the principle.”

On March 17, 2015, the EEOC found the likely cause that Jackson, which employs more than 5,000 people and is headquartered in Lansing, Michigan, discriminates against black and female employees in recruiting, promotion and hiring. The agency found that Jackson created a “hostile work environment” against employees who were in-house wholesalers, business development consultants and desk directors, the lawsuit said.

The allegations come from Jackson National Life Distributors, a subsidiary of Jackson, at their Denver offices at 7601 Technology Way. Jackson closed his Atlanta office in 2007 because the hiring pool and staff were “too black,” according to Executive Vice President Greg Salsbury, the lawsuit said.

Both Funchess and Ford were hired in Atlanta and transferred to the Denver office, they said. Around the same time, JNLD hired James Bossert as Senior Vice President of Sales. According to the lawsuit, he “kindled the fire of racism and sexism” and encouraged his superiors to discriminate against black employees. Black employees were bullied and ostracized.

“Black employees were told they couldn’t be promoted because of the color of their skin,” the lawsuit said.

At a mandatory staff party at his house, Division Vice President John Poulsen reportedly told Ford to get on his knees, and then grabbed a large bottle of vodka and “started pushing it and pretending as if the bottle were his penis “. says. “Everyone laughed while Ms. Ford was humiliated.”

White employees regularly pelted black employees with balls from behind and in the face. When Mwamba complained, Bossert “classified” him as an “outsider” who “does not understand his job”, according to the lawsuit. Bossert revoked a subordinate manager who tried to stop the ball throwing. Pranks against black employees are the order of the day, according to the lawsuit.

One plaintiff, Marcus Adams, was sitting on a sharp object in his chair and when he screamed other employees laughed. Adams had to be hospitalized for stab wounds, the lawsuit said. When Adams was wearing a new suit to work, other employees shouted, “Nice pimp suit, Marcus!” He was then called a “pimp”.

Bosart allowed white employees to hang a poster of President Barack Obama with an exaggerated nose and lips, portraying him as a thief who had stolen from poor whites for several weeks, the lawsuit said. Because Obama was President, white employees stated that “watermelon is on sale,” and Obama will serve fried chicken in the White House. Some said he only won because black crackheads voted for him. A white worker wore an Obama mask to work with a monkey tail on his shirt, the lawsuit says.

Male employees “are free to ask women sexually related questions,” the lawsuit said. Employees described Ford and Funchess as “lazy … Prima Donnas … from Atlanta … (and) shiftless and lazy”.

“Black and female employees were discriminated against in almost all employment conditions, including pay, territories, awards, training and lack of support,” the lawsuit said. Black employees were refused the production bonuses they had earned.

Jackson used flimsy excuses to discipline black employees, the lawsuit said. When Funchess falsely claimed she took six days of vacation instead of the actual five, Jackson fired Funchess. It didn’t matter that her mistake cost Funchess a day of vacation and helped Jackson, the lawsuit says. Plaintiff Kenneth Conley was fired for coming to work “early” without permission. Alcena Gannaway was fired after forwarding an email that – “at first sight” – said she was approved for distribution.

But white employees were not disciplined even when caught directing employees to illegally cancel accounts, not licensed to sell insurance, come to work drunk, masturbate at work, or fail to meet basic performance quotas, according to the US the lawsuit.

White employees who wanted to promote or protect black employees were punished, according to the lawsuit. Vice President Bob Blanchette was fired the day he “defied Mr. Bossert” by giving Ford the positive rating it deserved. Bossert had ordered him to rate her negatively.

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