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Jackson National Life, subsidiaries settle $20.5M discrimination suit

Jackson National Life Insurance Co., Jackson National Life Distributors LLC and Jackson National Life Insurance Co. of New York agreed to a $20.5 million settlement over allegations of retaliation and discrimination based on race, national origin and gender.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged that the companies tolerated a hostile work environment in their Denver and Nashville offices, where female African American employees were thrown stress balls at, called "lazy" and subjected to racially demeaning cartoons.

The employees were also allegedly subjected to sexual comments, leering and unwanted sexual advances from male coworkers, including being called "resident street walkers" by a high-level manager. African American and female employees were also allegedly given inferior compensation and were passed over for promotion in favor of less-qualified male employees.

The companies retaliated against employees for filing charges of discrimination, including the termination of a vice president who refused to give a negative evaluation and disciplinary warning to two employees for filing complaints, according to the complaint.

A four-year consent decree will provide $20.5 million in damages, attorneys fees and costs to 21 former Jackson National employees. The companies will be required to designate an internal compliance monitor and retain an outside consultant who will review their equal employment opportunity policies, promotional and compensation practices and future discrimination, harassment and retaliation complaints. The consent decree also requires the companies to train their employees on discrimination, harassment and retaliation.