Workers Terminated Based on Race and in Retaliation for Providing Testimony During Investigation, Federal Agency Charged
FRESNO, Calif. - Farmers Insurance Exchange will pay $225,000 and furnish other relief to settle a race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the suit filed by EEOC, Farmers Insurance Exchange terminated two Southeast Asian American employees of Hmong descent in March 2009 for improper coding, but failed to take similar action against employees of a different race for the same conduct. EEOC also charged the company with terminating a Caucasian employee in 2012 in retaliation for having testified before EEOC during its investigation.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. EEOC filed suit against Farmers Insurance Exchange in 2013 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California (EEOC v. Farmers Insurance Exchange, Case No. 1:13-cv-01574 AWI SKO) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Under the consent decree approved by U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Ishii, Farmers Insurance Exchange admits no liability, but agrees to pay a total of $225,000 to the three terminated employees to voluntarily resolve EEOC's case. Additionally, Farmers will publish its policies regarding discrimination, retaliation and the complaint procedures; distribute any revised policies to all employees at the Fresno Branch Claims Office (BCO) region; provide annual training for human resources personnel and managers who oversee the Fresno BCO region; designate an equal employment monitor; post an employee notice about the settlement; and undertake record keeping and reporting to EEOC. The federal agency will monitor compliance with the decree.
"We commend Farmers Insurance Exchange for agreeing to make changes that will ensure compliance with federal law," said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC's Los Angeles District, which includes Fresno in its jurisdiction.
Melissa Barrios, director of EEOC's Fresno Local Office, added, "We also commend the claimants who had the courage to come forward, because oftentimes Asian and Pacific Islanders communities are reluctant to complain. Federal law also prohibits retaliation, and EEOC takes very seriously its mission to fight it."
Eliminating discriminatory policies affecting vulnerable workers who may be unaware of their rights under equal employment laws or reluctant or unable to exercise them, are one of six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). These policies can include disparate pay, job segregation, harassment, and trafficking. Eliminating policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or that impede EEOC's investigative or enforcement efforts, is another SEP priority.
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.