BLOOMINGTON — Four people have filed race discrimination lawsuits against State Farm in recent weeks. Two were filed in Texas and two were filed in Georgia.
The new cases are in addition to similar lawsuits filed against the insurance giant that WGLT previously has reported on.
Each of the plaintiffs, five women and one man, claim they faced firing and other retaliation for blowing the whistle on race discrimination in the workplace.
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The law firm of noted civil rights attorney Ben Crump has filed each of the lawsuits.
State Farm denies the allegations raised in the lawsuits.
“State Farm has long been committed to a diverse and inclusive environment, where all of our associates and customers are treated with respect and dignity, and where differences are valued,” said State Farm public affairs specialist Gina Morss-Fischer. “These allegations do not reflect the State Farm culture.”
An expert in discrimination law says too many employers are lax in combating discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
Suja Thomas is an expert in discrimination law at the University of Illinois. Thomas said she hasn’t noticed an increase in these types of discrimination cases in the corporate world, but said retaliation is common and there’s a high legal bar to prove someone liable.
“The courts are interpreting the law in a very narrow way such that if someone is actually harassing in the workplace, you can have someone be touched multiple times and the courts will say that’s not enough to be considered sexual harassment under the law, case dismissed,” Thomas said.
Thomas said employers have to do more than host harassment training. She said they need to have a zero-tolerance policy toward any hostile behavior.
“Employers should want to have a good atmosphere for everyone where we don’t have bias occurring on a regular basis in our workplaces, so employers should push to do more,” she said, adding large corporations should not get a pass when it comes to establishing an inclusive culture.
“When you have a big company, that is your responsibility to take care of the workforce, so you are going to employ more people to actually watch the workplace,” Thomas said.
She said even if corporations often can successfully defend themselves in these types of civil cases, they should still see the benefit of how fostering diversity can reduce staff turnover.