By Chinta Strausberg
Attorney Ben Crump sues State Farm for racism, discrimination
Saying, “State Farm’s racism causes harm,” Attorney Ben Crump and his partners Thursday announced a “landmark” lawsuit against State Farm allegedly the insurance company allegedly engaged in “systematic racism, discrimination and retaliation,” against a 28-year- veteran employee, Dr. Carla Campbell-Jackson.
“State Farm has acted with reckless disregard and indifference to the treatment of African Americans and other minorities employees and customers and agents,” Crump said. “There exist in abundance of evidence of a culture of racism and disenfranchisement against African Americans and minority employees including Hispanics and Muslims.”
Referring to State Farm, Crump said, “Their overt racism ranges from nooses in the workplace, to racist outrageous letters and racist wall graffiti calling African American women derogatory terms out of their names and telling a black employee to kiss a real, live pig while in the workplace to demeaning African Americans based on the way they talk.”
Crump said the EEOC investigator informed Campbell-Jackson its agency had collected 100,000 pieces of documents evidencing a “culture of racism and discrimination that exist at State Farm. That is why we say State Farm, your racism causes harm.”
Crump said Campbell-Jackson was fired two-weeks after she complained about racism. “There is no good reason why this exemplary employee of 28-years would be discharged by them. She got all of the accolades while she worked at State Farm. She achieved every designation that you could achieve in the insurance industry. She achieved the CPCU, the Charter Property Casualty Underwriter designation, the highest insurance designation in the industry,” Crump said.
“They send you to Hawaii when you achieve this designation, but her white colleagues said, ‘the CPCU stands for Colored People Can’t Understand.’ That is what Dr. Carla has been dealing with and she said ‘no more’ and took a stand not just for her but for others who are having to tolerate this in silence because of fear of retaliation.”
Crump was joined by Rev. Janette Wilson, senior advisor to Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Bishop Tavis Grant, national field director for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Attorneys Robert McLaughlin and Steven Hart from the law firm of Hart McLaughlin & Eldridge, along with NAACP State President Teresa Haley, Linda Foster, NAACP Bloomington-Normal President, Bradley Ross Jackson, 15, the son of Campbell-Jackson, who is a sophomore at the Normal Community High School and who is also president of the NAACP Bloomington-Normal Youth Council and a member of the PUSH Excel Oratorical program. Michael Childress, NAACP DuPage County, Illinois President.
Bishop Grant, said, “We want the nation to know that State Farm’s racism causes harm, and we will not stop until we get the justice” for Campbell-Jackson and many others.
Rev. Wilson told reporters, “We know that State Farm like many other insurance companies have engaged in red-lining by zip codes against African Americans.”
Attorney McLaughlin said Campbell-Jackson’s discrimination and retaliation began in 2014 when she registered complaints and concerns that minority employees and customers were being discriminated against. Shortly afterwards, McLaughlin said her reviews began to dwindle, getting poor grades for performance—evaluations like she had never received before.
McLaughlin said in 2016 there was a racist letter distributed to all minority State Farm employees she received. When she brought this to State Farm’s attention, he said, “She was retaliated against by being terminated.” He said State Farm gave her an agreement for her to sign under strict confidentiality that State Farm would pay her $175,000 if she agreed not to talk about discrimination.“She refused their gag offer.”
That is when Campbell-Jackson went to the EEOC and filed a discrimination complaint. “After a years-long investigation, the EEOC proved that Dr. Carla was discriminated against based on her race and retaliated against based on her race,” McLaughlin said.
He said the EEOC concluded there was another class of State Farm employees who were similarly discriminated against based on their race including African Americans and Muslims. “The EEOC recommended that State Farm pay Dr. Carla in compensatory and punitive damages closed to $500,000.” Campbell-Jackson decided to sue instead.
At the time of the allegations, Campbell-Jackson was working at a Portage, Michigan State Farm office. Campbell-Jackson said she began her career as an intern at State Farm when she was a 19-year-old Drake University student. While she continued to excel at State Farm, she said, “They told me I was to articulate and that I needed to talk like the inner city of St. Louis” where she had lived.
She listed a list of degrees she had earned including her doctorate. “Yet, that was not enough,” she said. “Even after I earned my designations, I received a plethora of excellent ratings while enduring the racism and discrimination.” She said records will show she received superior and outstanding ratings until she reported the “rampant racism and discrimination against black employees and customers.
She said she walked away from State Farm’s $175,000 “hush money” because “racism and discrimination cannot be bought away.” She said State Farm had two-armed security guards to usher her out of the building something she said “was intolerable” and humiliating.
“Just as I proudly stood with the ‘Me, Too movement because I get it,” Campbell-Jackson said, “I declare this corporate American racism as the ‘We, Too movement.’” “We, too will break the chain of silence.”
However, State Farm denies Campbell-Jackson’s allegations of racism and discrimination. Gina Morss-Fischer, a spokesperson for the Bloomington-based insurance company, said, “While we admire Ben Crump’s important civil rights work, we fundamentally disagree with the facts Carla Campbell-Jackson is presenting in this case.
“We believe these allegations are without merit as they run counter to our values and who we are as an organization. In our defense of these allegations, we will provide important facts that Campbell-Jackson has failed to present,” Morss-Fischer stated.
Campbell-Jackson was allowed to sue State Farm after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission made a ruling several months ago that her charge of racism, discrimination and retaliation had “reasonable cause.” After negotiations (conciliation) to arrive at a compromised failed last June, the EEOC issued a “right-to-sue” letter enabling Campbell-Jackson to file a lawsuit last Thursday.
Attorney Crump wants everyone to know that “State Farm’s racism causes harm.”