Farmers Insurance will pay a high price for discriminating against its female attorneys

Federal District Judge Lucy Koh had some very picky questions Thursday about terminology used in a multimillion-dollar settlement hammered out between Farmers Insurance and the hundreds of female attorneys it has underpaid for years.

I wasn’t expecting fireworks, exactly, but I thought things would be a little more lively for a case that could have a major effect on companies that, even unwittingly, pay men more than women for the same work.

Despite the technical questions coming from the bench, at least one person in the courtroom was absolutely riveted: Lynne Coates, a former Farmers attorney who discovered during a casual work conversation two years ago that a male colleague with less experience was earning more than she. Not too much later, she also found out her male litigation partner was being paid twice her salary — $185,000 versus $99,000. The man could hardly be considered more experienced than Coates; he earned his law license a year after she earned hers.

Coates, 50, complained to her manager, who responded by effectively demoting her, giving her work more suited to a paralegal than an experienced trial attorney.

It was embarrassing and humiliating,” she told me last year. “My job was taken away from me.”

She quit and filed a lawsuit, alleging Farmers had broken state and federal discrimination laws. Within months, nearly 300 female attorneys joined the class-action lawsuit. Nearly 200 of them are current Farmers attorneys.

Farmers has agreed to pay $4 million. As lead plaintiff, Coates will receive at least $85,000.

But more important, the company has also agreed to an impressive series of reforms, including increasing the number of women attorneys in its higher salary grades.

Also, for a period of three years, a company official will monitor compliance with the agreement, provide diversity training to attorneys and give progress reports to San Francisco attorney Lori Andrus, who represented Coates and the other plaintiffs, along with San Jose attorney Lori Costanzo.

“An excellent agreement,” Koh said.

“This is a substantial victory, and a good model going forward,” said UC Hastings law professor Joan Williams, an expert on workplace gender issues.

I wondered if three years was enough time to reverse decades of subtle workplace discrimination.

Andrus said she was pleased.  “We think it’s plenty of time for them to really, really clean up their act,” she said.

In the end, the case boiled down to a battle of statistics.

Farmers wanted to compare attorneys in small, individual branch offices, which Andrus and Costanzo resisted.  “If you look just at their San Jose office, which employs eight attorneys, it’s such a small number that comparing them makes it difficult to draw any conclusions,” she said. But when the salaries of Farmers attorneys all over the country were compared, Andrus said, “the wage gap quadrupled.”

Not surprisingly, greater disparity occurred at the higher salary grades. Perhaps the male attorneys in those grades had more experience than their female counterparts?  To control for that, Andrus and Costanzo looked at the dates each attorney passed the bar as a measure of experience.

“We found that women were much more likely to be in a lower salary grade,” Andrus said, “regardless of bar date.”

So although women and men were both hired into lower salary grades, women basically got stuck there.

“It’s not that women were being demoted,” Andrus said. “But a man would get groomed and promoted. Basically, there is male favoritism, which is probably unintentional. It’s a vestige of the good old boy network.”

Increasingly, employers are recognizing that pay gaps may be unintentional, but are unmistakably real.

Last year, the San Francisco-based tech giant Salesforce awarded $3 million in raises after discovering, through a voluntary salary analysis, that it had a gender wage gap. “We did find quite a few women who were being paid less than men and we’ve made that change,” Chief Executive Marc Benioff told CNN. “With just the push of one button, every CEO in the world can know exactly what is their pay discrepancy between men and women, and I hope that every CEO pushes that button.”

That would be nice.

“If we see more and more of these audits,” said California Democratic state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, “I think we are going to see major shifts.

Jackson co-authored a new state law, the California Fair Pay Act, that has been described as “one of the most aggressive” equal pay laws in the country. It was incorporated into the Farmers lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs who still work at the company.

One reason the law has been hailed as a breakthrough is that it requires companies to pay employees equally for work that is substantially similar — not exactly the same. That is a critical twist.

“The pay scale for a janitor in a hotel is greater than a housekeeper,” Jackson said. “Why is that? The work is substantially similar, and yet most janitors are men, most housekeepers are women.”

The law also shifts the burden of proof. Bosses are now required to show that a wage differential is the result of a bona fide factor like education, training or experience, not sex.

In the court hallway after the hearing, Coates was beaming. “I feel good,” she said. “The changes that Farmers has agreed to implement are going to make such a difference for the women in the company, and that is what this is all about.”

Maybe so. This year, Andrus said, Farmers gave unscheduled raises of $10,000 to $13,000 to female attorneys who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

It’s a start. But barely.

robin.abcarian@latimes.com
Source: http://www.latimes.com/

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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