300 Farmers Insurance Investigators Win Cert. In Wage Row

Law360, San Francisco (August 1, 2017, 10:10 PM EDT) — A California federal judge Tuesday conditionally certified a collective action brought by 300 Farmers Insurance claims investigators who say they’ve been misclassified as exempt from overtime, finding they’d met the “low standard” for sending out notices, even though it was a “close question” for those whose duties didn’t include going into the field.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte said she would allow the plaintiffs to send notice to three groups of employees — special investigators, senior special investigators and general special investigators — for the opt-in action, finding they’d met the lenient burden of showing the workers were “similarly situated,” since their duties were alike, they were classified as exempt and often worked overtime hours they weren’t compensated for.

While the judge agreed with Farmers Insurance Exchange’s skepticism that “desk investigators” who didn’t leave the office to interview witnesses or take pictures of the scene of an incident could qualify as nonexempt, she ended up including them.

“I think this is appropriate for conditional certification,” she said. “Though it’s a close question, it’s still a very low standard.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act suit, filed in January by David Deluca and Barry Francis, alleges investigators continue to be misclassified as exempt from overtime pay by Farmers, in spite of prior litigation over the practice.

The complaint alleges that while investigators look into insurance claims to see if they’re fraudulent and write reports based on their findings, they don’t render opinions or recommendations, suggesting they don’t have the “independent judgment” authority to trigger an administrative exemption under the FLSA. The investigators are salaried, but they regularly work more than 40 hours a week, the suit alleges.

Farmers, which offers insurance for homes, cars and commercial entities, has faced litigation for this practice before. A 2007 suit in Minnesota federal court ended with a summary judgment finding two years later that the company had misclassified its investigators as exempt, but the insurance company never changed its policy.

On Tuesday, Judge Laporte did trim “national investigators,” who handle complex fraud ring and organized crime investigations, from the action, finding their role hadn’t been sufficiently discussed in the complaint. Farmers attorney Andrew M. Paley of Seyfarth Shaw LLP also asked that she cut the language seeking to encompass “similar positions” from the case, arguing it was too vague.

“Even if Your Honor believes they’ve met a fairly low standard here, I would submit they have not met the standard with regard to anything but the three significant positions,” he said.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Daniel S. Brome of Nichols Kaster PLLP conceded on the national group, arguing “in general they do the same work, but we don’t have any evidence of that.” But he successfully fought to keep the desk investigators in the suit, saying the field work duties were “a distinction without a difference.”

Now email and mailed notifications will go out to the estimated 300 potential plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs are represented by Matthew C. Helland, Daniel S. Brome, Matthew H. Morgan and Reena I. Desai of Nichols Kaster PLLP.

Farmers is represented by Andrew M. Paley, Sheryl L. Skibbe and Ryan McCoy of Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

The case is David Deluca et al. v. Farmers Insurance Exchange et al., case number 3:17-cv-00034, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

 

Source: https://www.law360.com

This is how Farmers Insurance treats their Agents and their Families

This is an open letter to all Farmers Insurance Agents from the widow of a recently deceased Farmers Insurance Agent.
My husband became a Farmers Agent 35 years ago in 1980. He was one of the top producing agents for his Regional
Office for the next 17 years with a stellar record of making all the achievement clubs every single year including Life and
Commercial Masters, Life and Commercial Round Table, Toppers club and Championship. He was even chosen as a
Presidents Council member twice.

In the late 1990s he was diagnosed with stage IV cancer of the colon and liver with a chance of survival that was less
than 15%. After undergoing semi-experimental, aggressive and extensive surgeries, a year of topical and systemic
chemotherapy and 5 weeks of grueling radiation, he managed to become cancer free and continue living, albeit with
somewhat impaired health and with less energy than before. He also had to learn to live with some of the side effects
of aggressive treatments stemming from impaired liver functions. The disease was an eye opener in many ways. The
first thing my husband realized was that the life insurance policies that he so good at selling did not really contribute to
agency building. One needed property and casualty policies for continued for renewal revenue. Being in the Los Angeles
metropolitan area he also knew that auto and home policies would come and go as Farmers Insurance did not really
provide a competitively priced product. He always liked the commercial side of insurance so he started building on that
side of the business. Of course as most agents know, the Farmers appetite in this area is very limiting, and therefore a
substantial amount of business had to be placed outside of the Farmers Group of companies.

Any agent who has been with Farmers long enough knows the carrot and stick approach the company uses to keep their
agents productive. Although my husband’s contract was the original 1980’s version with no requirement for production,
and freedom to place business outside if it does not fit the Farmers appetite, the insurance company started putting the
pressure on for my husband to be more productive. They had no consideration for the fact that my husband no longer
had the ability to work the 16 hours days he used to put in before he became sick. They threatened him with a multitude
of consequences, once with taking away the 500 and 700 accounts he had been given to service as other agents had
left or been terminated. Other times management walked in and randomly audited files for “misplaced” business (lucky
for us we extensively documented each file for declinations before placing it outside of Farmers). Another time a District
Agency Manager came into our office and very rudely tried to make my husband “retire” or resign, with no evidence
of any wrongdoing on my husband’s side. My husband, always the gentleman, allowed this representative of Farmers
Insurance rant and rave, with his district manager right there and unable to say anything. Eventually I interrupted the tirade
and pointed out to this man all that my husband had been through and all the side effects he lived with. That ended this
meeting, obviously with the realization that if any unreasonable steps were taken by Farmers, my husband would have an
airtight reason to sue for wrongful termination.

In February of this year my husband passed away after a rapid deterioration in health and multiple organ failure.
Throughout his somewhat lengthy hospitalization our son and I maintained his office, kept full office hours, and provided
full service to our Farmers Insurance policyholders. I had always been a part of my husband’s office, managing the office
and providing service support to his clients. I am fully licensed so everything was done properly and professionally. My
son is also a licensed producer and therefore we had a fully licensed staff in place even though the agent was unable to
be in the office. After my husband’s passing we tried to maintain reasonable office hours in order to service the clients.
The District Manager was full of sympathy and attended the funeral. The regional management wrote a glowing letter of
support and condolences and donated generously to the school my husband had always supported.

However, at the same time while I was in deep shock and full of grief, the District Manager started asking me what my
intentions were as far as the Farmers book of business was concerned.  He advised me anything I worked on from the
date of his death we would not be paid for. About ten days after his passing, I came into the office, turned on the agency
Dashboard and found I had no access. Still clueless, I called the helpdesk and was informed there was no such agent
in their system! I still had the Farmers files but I was unable to provide service to anyone. With no warning of any sort,
the management at Farmers had disconnected my husband’s agency. I still had not advised them as to what my family’s
intentions were. For all they knew, one of my sons or I could have wanted to continue on as a Farmers Agent.

However, my sons and I already knew the true nature of what it meant to be a Farmers agent. We knew there was more
stick than carrot in the way agents were treated. The 35 years my husband had been their agent had taught us both sides
of the Face of Farmers.

Soon after this, I received a letter from Farmers Insurance advising me that although I had promptly and diligently turned
in all of the files connected to my husband’s book of business to the District Manager, and also given them our dedicated
Farmers Insurance telephone number, I would not be paid the contract value for the next 90 days. My understanding is
that although I will not be paid for any policies I put in force after the day my husband died, they would have the right to
not pay me for any policies that lapsed or cancelled for the next 3 months. So as far as they are concerned my husband’s
contract stopped on the day he died, but the value of the agency could still decrease even though he was no longer an
agent. I wish someone could tell me how this can be legal! Even the district manager does not really know. He told me I
would probably be paid in 30 days. It has now been 45 days and I have not seen any checks from Farmers.

Therefore when an agent dies, his family is left high and dry with no income to even pay their bills if they rely solely on the
agent’s income from Farmers. Chances are a young agent’s family would be left in very dire straits if such an event were
to befall him. The intent of this letter is one of a cautionary tale. Who is going to pay your family’s or office bills if something
were to happen to you today? The new contract you might have signed really reins in your ability to have any form of
income outside of the Farmers agency. The Farmers Insurance Agents group life policy will not pay your family for at least
another 45 days and neither will the FNWL life insurance policy you might have purchased on yourself.

I am not an attorney, but I learned the hard way that when a sole proprietor dies his business dies with him. I am guessing
most Farmers agents might well be sole proprietors. Even as a corporation, the agent is always an individual. Agents need
to make sure they understand the ramifications of this in case something does happen to them. We sell life insurance to
protect families, and yet we do not really understand what can happen to our own families if suddenly we are no longer
there.

Mrs Vartan Karlubian

Source: UFAA The Voice

Age discrimination: Farmers Insurance company hit with $749,000 verdict

by Michael Futterman and Jaime Touchstone

A claims adjuster filed suit against Farmers Insurance when she was terminated after returning from a medical leave. A Fresno jury found that Farmers discriminated against the employee based on her age and failed to reasonably accommodate her disability. The jury awarded the employee $749,000, and she may be able to recover her attorneys’ fees as well.

Claims adjuster sues over termination

Farmers Insurance hired Sharron Warehime to work as a claims adjuster in its Visalia office. Warehime, who was 57, had more than 15 years of experience in the insurance industry. Initially, she received good to outstanding job performance ratings and was awarded various professional honors and accolades by Farmers.

Things at Farmers began to sour for Warehime after she was transferred to the company’s Fresno office. Following the transfer, she asked to handle her own caseload rather than working on cases assigned to other adjusters. Her supervisor obliged, allegedly assigning her the largest caseload in the office, including a previously fired coworker’s problematic files.

Overburdened, Warehime eventually requested help and a reduction in her caseload. In response, her supervisor acknowledged that she was responsible for a larger than usual number of files but didn’t reassign any of her work.
On top of the heavier workload, the Fresno office was staffed with younger employees who allegedly began directing ageist comments at Warehime, including “I don’t want to work when I’m your age” and “The old fuddy-duddy is coming in.”

Warehime complained. Her supervisor allegedly responded by conducting “case reviews” on her files, which culminated in Warehime receiving several “warnings” and being placed on probation. When she responded that the negative evaluation of her work was inaccurate and unfair, she was instructed to improve her performance.

The stress at work became so intense that Warehime allegedly suffered a mental breakdown and took a doctor-recommended leave of absence to undergo treatment for depression and anxiety. At the conclusion of her medical leave, her doctor cleared her to return to work, allegedly with a request that Farmers allow her to initially work a part-time schedule. The company didn’t respond to that request, and when she showed up for her first day back, a young man was sitting at her desk. Farmers had allegedly terminated her without notice.

Warehime sued Farmers for violations of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), including claims for age discrimination, retaliation, failure to provide reasonable accommodation, and failure to engage in a timely good-faith interactive process. After a five-week trial, the jury found that Warehime had been a victim of age discrimination and retaliation and that Farmers failed to accommodate her disability. The jury awarded her $749,000, which included damages for lost wages and benefits.

Warehime also filed a motion to recover her attorneys’ fees. That motion and Farmers’ posttrial motions for a new trial and judgment notwithstanding the verdict are set for hearing in January 2014.

Jury believed employee

The FEHA affords job protection to individuals who are 40 or older and prohibits the harassment of any employee or applicant based on age. Businesses that regularly employ five or more workers on a full- or part- time basis must comply with the FEHA’s antidiscrimination provisions and evaluate job applicants and employees on the basis of their abilities, not their age.

Employers with one or more employees may be held responsible for any acts of harassment committed by their agents and supervisors and are required to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent harassment on the basis of age. When a job applicant or employee is denied an employment benefit or is the victim of unlawful harassment based on age, the employer may be liable for age discrimination.

However, the FEHA does not insulate older workers from disciplinary action or performance standards administered equally to employees of all ages. Employers may terminate, discharge, demote, or otherwise discipline an employee who is 40 or older if she either fails to perform the normal functions of her job or conform to its legitimate business requirements.

In her lawsuit, Warehime contended that she was treated differently than other employees because of her age, and when she complained to her supervisor, she experienced retaliation through progressive discipline designed to lead to her termination. In response, Farmers argued that she was terminated because she didn’t embrace technology at work, rejected training to become a better employee, and blamed others for her problems when her workload backed up. Farmers also claimed she “low-balled” customers on their claims, leading to increased lawsuits against the company.

Ultimately, the jury believed Warehime when she asserted that she was a “committed team player and good with customer service” who participated in any required training and received positive performance ratings for the first three years of her employment.

Farmers failed to accommodate disability

The FEHA requires covered employers to accommodate an employee or applicant with a known physical or mental disability as long as the accommodation does not cause an undue hardship. In response to a request for an accommodation, covered employers must engage in a timely good- faith interactive process with the individual to determine if any effective reasonable accommodations are available.

Warehime allegedly suffered from work-related anxiety and depression, making her a qualified individual with a disability under the FEHA. She requested that upon her return from medical leave, Farmers allow her to work a part-time schedule as an accommodation for her mental health condition. Rather than granting her request, Farmers terminated her immediately upon her return from medical leave.

Warehime accused Farmers of failing to provide reasonable accommodation for her disability and failing to engage in a timely interactive process. The jury agreed, which likely contributed to the six-figure award. Sharron Warehime v. Farmers Insurance (Fresno County Superior Court, Case No. 08CECG02976).

Bottom line

Complaints of discrimination based on age and disability require a thoughtful response from employers. Firing an employee on the same day she returns from leave is rarely a good idea. The large jury verdict in this case suggests that Farmers acted in an overly aggressive manner without adequate appreciation for the legal and economic risks at stake.

Source: http://hr.blr.com/

 

Former Farmers Insurance Adjuster Speaks Out

Having first hand experience as a property adjuster with farmers insurance for many years ( now with another company), I can tell you first hand that farmers adjusters were told to tighten up there approvals on wind and hail claims specifically in 2010 & 2011 due to paying to much ($35 million) in 2009 on hail claims just in Illinois alone. They changed there guidelines to basically only pay the worst of the worst damages while bringing in engineers to brain wash their staff into truly believing they were denying wear and tear damages that were true storm damages that should have been covered under the claim and insurance. Since 2011 farmers has now taken an easier approach but through 2013 when I left they were still denying storm damages due to inexperienced adjusters and also overseeing supervisors that would scold their employees for paying to much and being to easy going on approvals. If you truly want your claim accurately paid, file a home office or dept. of insurance complaint and farmers will send out a second adjuster and accurately pay your claim as they fear lawsuits and complaints. Depending on what adjuster you get you will get different claim handling and guidelines. I do not want to name specifically the adjusters who are the toughest on approvals but you will clearly know when talking to them initially or your contractor will know before they get there as they have probably met them in the past. The toughest adjuster for approvals works the northwest area, ie Rockford, crystal lake, Algonquin etc just as a heads up. To piggyback off other posts our catastrophe teams job is to come in give you some money to hold off for the short term. They are severely under trained in handling anything other than wind or hail claims, they do not know all the different state guidelines and will severely short you finds for repairs. I highly suggest requesting a second adjuster if you get one of these adjusters showing up at your house as they will short you money and even screw up coverage on your claim. Not to drag this out but compared to my new company farmers is a joke not only in promoting under experienced people to power positions to make important decisions in the company but also there staff, guidelines ( repairing things against industry standards) and treatment of their policyholders.

 

Source: Farmers Insurance Adjuster

A Typical Farmers Insurance Interview

I understand that companies don’t hire every candidate and they have a certain selection process– what bothers me though are these nasty recruiters and hiring managers who just have to INSULT candidates interviewing. let me explain that this has happened to me and a friend of mine who interviewed with this company. now im a sales genius- top seller and performer in various venues….I know everything about the sales process and would be the ideal candidate for a position like what they had. now they don’t have to hire me or anyone but what bothered me is that during the interview process I was actually INSULTED by the hiring manager who interviewed me…oh yes INSULTED and told im quiet oh and that he wasn’t convinced I could sell- im laughing at this as I actually gave a TEN MINUTE dissertation on sales and the sales process and brilliantly described in detail everything which most people would never be able to do. they say they are looking for TRUE sales people yet completely treated me as if im a stupid unexperienced quiet person who has no idea what im talking about yet im a proven TOP performer for over ten years in sales? this was just HORRIBLE- they have NO RIGHT to insult candidates this way or even PUT DOWN their abilities..imo its VERY unprofessional- any dolt with a brain would say this is an exceptional person who understands sales beyond most others yet this jerk manager actually insulted me my speaking ability and my PROVEN SALES ability which is disgusting shame on him! he basically just treated me as if im a stupid female with no brain…what a pathetic loser? to judge and put down someone who is actually EXCEPTIONAL is a stupid and ridiculous thing to do esp if you have a position of power over that person..shame on them..

the problem is– when someone calls you QUIET what they are doing is really trying to socially dominate you and PUT you down in MANY WAYS–especially when you are far from quiet…they are trying to demean you, your self esteem, your speaking ability, your character and in essense are saying they are jealous of you and you will never have a chance around them- most people who are threatened by someone will say this to them…I have spoken with MANY quiet soft spoken people and no one ever insults them and they get hired for many positions yet those who are exceptional, outgoing, and who threaten the idiots in places especially like Orlando where losers cohabitate will wrongly get called something like this just to be insulted for no reason. now a hiring manager or recruiter saying this to someone is just a complete domination of that person- that person has no way of defending themselves except saying “well im not quiet.” really they’ve already lost.. and in essence its almost as if they are now arguing with the person or having to fight and in the end they will lose…the hiring manager is putting this person in a corner really and theres not much they can do…what bothers me about this pathetic interview is that I was told this by the nasty hiring manager who already decided he wanted nothing to do with me despite my brilliant answers and the fact that I spoke so intelligently for many minutes at a time about the sales process giving in depth excellent answers…to call someone QUIET after they have spoken for so long is absurd, unfair, ridiculous and a way of social dominance and utterly pathetic…a candidate can say nothing because the imbecilic recruiter has already decided they have the power and place to insult and socially dominate this person no matter what the circumstance…so the candidate not only won’t get hired despite the fact they SHOULD get hired but they will also be INSULTED and have their self esteem put down by this pathetic imbecile in a management position who feels they can treat the candidate this way because they are a recruiter in a position of power over that person….this was my experience with this company and just AWFUL.

its like telling a surgeron who has performed thousands of surgeries theyre not sure that person can do that…its completely FALSE and makes no sense. what’s worse is that the person I shadowed at the company knew NOTHING about sales and wasn’t even a seller and was horrible- in fact everyone there seemed terrible. Sure the company isn’t obligated to hire me or anyone if they choose not to but they have no right to literally insult candidates as if they have any idea…in fact im sure I could not only outsell the manager but am far better than him and maybe they are threatened by exceptional people but at this place they do not hire exceptional people but they insult them during interviews then reject them. I applied to work for these imbeciles- not only did I have all the qualifications but far exceeded them. I was told by the recruiter that someone wasn’t hired by them because the person gave a silly answer to a basic question..its very strange that someone can give in depth brilliant answers and still be insulted AND rejected. im amazing at sales and its been proven. Top performer at many positions. In my interview- I gave a ten minute dissertation on the sales process, something I doubt ANYONE can do and proved I knew everything about sales. of course because I am a female he had to put me down and say I am ‘soft spoken’ and he’s not sure I can do the position lol! ive been doing TELEPHONE SALES for over 10 years and a proven sales success and he’s telling me he isn’t sure I can sell insurance over the phone? is he crazy? Also I’m a sales GENIUS being able to sit there and analyze everything about sales, my call, the person I shadowed their call – EVERYTHING and this imbecile is saying he’s not sure I can SELL? the sales person I shadowed was horrible and not even a sales rep! He was awful and not even selling and completely stupid and this a**hole recruiter at farmers is trying to put ME down a sales freaking genius and also trying to say im “SOFT SPOKEN” after giving a dissertation on sales?? these managers these days are crazy- it seems they are threatened by exceptional people especially those who are women and its disturbing and disgusting. I think this was gender discrimination as im a pretty female and he just HAD to put me down and mistreat me in this terrible way. I KNEW I wasn’t hired the minute I left- and it’s really weird how recruiters these days are brain dead imbeciles who like to put down the BEST employees or potential employees and they hire complete dolts, stupid people and people who I think are just robots. for a company like this they should have been BEGGING to get a sales rep as good as me and someone not only who is so knowledgable but someone who knows everything about It and has a TON of experience- but no instead the trashy POS sales manager had to INSULT me and put me down even put down my speaking ability which is GREAT and my sales ability and say hes not sure or convinced I can SELL something ive been doing for over TEN YEARS being the TOP REP at every single place ive worked??? someone needs to teach tehse idiots a lesson….they have creeps as hiring managers and really crappy trashy people who insult and put down really amazing people…screw them!

also, once these nasty hiring managers do not hire you once…they will NEVER consider you again because they are in this case JEALOUS or threatened by your abilities and would never even think to hire you however they will hire total idiots who have no ability, no experience and who are horrible at the job!

my advice to people interviewing with this awful company is just act very stupid and sit there silent and act dumb because you will be praised rewarded for it and get hired- if you make a very STUPID mistake, they wont hire you but if you just act stupid and average they will like you and take you. however, if you are exceptional and great, they will insult berate you and then reject you immediately while laughing in your face…it’s a trashy and bad company beware…again what bothers me is that my talents and abilities were falsely INSULTED by the nasty manager rather than be praised for my excellent history and great sales abilities…how dare they do this to people coming in to interview–they try to break random people down? they have no place to do this….tehse people are far underqualified along with the people they hire and use their abilities to undermine demean and insult amazing candidates far above their crappy qualifications and far above their own selves…what a trashy place run by trashy crappy people…what bothers me about these terrible companies and crappy managers that do this is that, they promote STUPIDITY and bad workmanship…rather than praising and promoting individuals with TALENT INTELLECT and ABILITY they insult them during the interview process in turn trying to mess with their self esteem, their abilities…this is horrible really..is this what this society is coming down to–punishing those who are great and exceptional and rewarding idiots with no skills or abilities? this is what disgusts me about practices and companies like these that feel they can treat individuals this way…shame on them and hope they hire more dolts because that’s what that terrible place deserves…

Source: Compaints.com

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