Health

Gender bias lawsuit filed against Cigna

A female employee files a gender bias lawsuit against Cigna Healthcare, Inc.

Plaintiff Bretta Karp, who has worked at CIGNA Healthcare, Inc., since 1997, filed a putative federal class action against the company on March 3.

The complaint alleges that CIGNA has engaged in discriminatory evaluation and promotion practices in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Massachusetts state law.

Karp claims that her performance was consistently recognized as outstanding since her initial employment: She won two CIGNA awards in 2006: the National Leadership Award for the New Hampshire and Vermont markets and the Top Facility Contracting Award for the Vermont market.

In addition, her annual performance reviews contained statements such as "Bretta is ready for higher level promotions" and that she was "ready to progress to the next level of management."

However, in July 2010, Karp interviewed for a provider contracting director position. She claims a senior director told her he thought she was highly qualified, but the choice "may come down to a style thing." In August, she was told she did not get the promotion because she "came across as too aggressive" in the interviews. The position ultimately went to a less-experienced male employee who had been with CIGNA for two years.

The law firm that filed Karp's action, Sanford Wittels & Heisler, also represented female employees of the Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis in a class action that settled for $175 million last year. And, in January, the firm filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York on behalf of a senior human resources manager at Toshiba Corp., seeking $100 million from a U.S. unit of the Japanese firm for alleged gender bias against women in pay and promotions.

Karp is seeking more than $100 million in damages.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

9 comments
DavidParc
DavidParc

She has great feedback and Multiple awards, What more do you want, and whats a "Style thing"?!

sslevine
sslevine

http://www.boston.com/yourtown/cambridge/articles/2011/03/04/cigna_sued_on_claims_of_gender_bias/ It's about sending the message loud and clear, discrimination is not going to be tolerated anymore. She was not the only woman experiencing discrimination. Reading the article, you see potentially thousands of women affected by discriminatory practices. AND it's not just the $$: "Besides $100 million in monetary damages, it seeks structural changes in promotion, performance evaluation, and other practices at Cigna to prevent further gender discrimination." "The idea that women continue to make 78 cents on the dollar for doing comparable work is something that is a big problem in this country,?????? Sanford said. ???It???s not only Cigna???s problem, it???s a societal, systemic problem.?????? Bad enough that the right to an legal and safe abortion, one women fought for and earned, is being eroded by political entities. Women still can't get respect and equal treatment in the workforce, when they hold 49.83 percent of the nation's 132 million jobs. If it isn't fair for everyone, it's not fair, period.

WishtobeIT
WishtobeIT

This write up does not mention whether or not this employee is still with CIGNA, was demoted, layed off, fired, or still remains with the company. Can't assume anything these days. That does help shine some light. Obviously, this is a fresh law suit--only a week if the 3/3 date is correct

colin.brown
colin.brown

Whether there was discrimation or not, how is the figure of $100m arrived at? presumably her salary, even for the new position was well in the 6 figure bracket, not 7, or 8!

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... explain the reasons why someone was passed over for promotion. It will get you in trouble every time. That said, based on the information here it does sound a little shady. Is that the whole story, though?

cadman53114
cadman53114

She has been with the company for 14 years. If she'd gotten the promotion, and it was 6 figures, she would probably be with the company for 14+ more. After this lawsuit, she will most likely not be welcomed there anymore, and will very likely take years to ever get back to that level as we all no....she will be black marked for the rest of her life because she "fought back" and wouldn't take their corporate bull@#&t. So since she most likely will loose ten years off her career, at $100 per year, through in legal fees, and damage to her reputation....they got off lucky.

gbyshenk
gbyshenk

... always make promotion decisions for appropriate reasons; then it is no problem when you explain them?

lgelber
lgelber

Lawsuits alleging negligence or misconduct generally calculate two separate types of damages: actual loss, and punitive damage. Actual loss would be the salary and compensation, including future loss, that she did not receive. Punitive damages are damages intended to insure that a company stops doing illegal things. If lawsuits were resolved for actual loss and nothing else, then there would be little incentive for companies to change their practices. Punitive damages are designed to punish wrongdoing.

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