Judge: Insurance Firm Committed Sex Discrimination
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A judge Monday decided that State Farm Insurance Co. discriminated against women in California, saying the giant company excluded them from potentially lucrative jobs as agents.
Only two of State Farm’s 1,454 agents in California were women in 1974, and only 65 of 1,847 - 3.5 percent - were women in 1981, said U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson.
He said the company maintained a ″male image″ through advertising and ″discouraged and deterred women from applying.″
Attorney Guy Saperstein, who filed a class-action suit on behalf of three female secretaries and office managers at State Farm, said the ruling would affect tens of thousands of women in the state who had been rejected or deterred from applying since July 1974.
Saperstein said he expected Henderson to award at least $10 million in back pay to those women, and that women hired during the next decade because of the ruling will gain hundreds of millions of dollars in pay and benefits.
Saperstein said he will ask Henderson to set a hiring quota until 40 to 50 percent of the company’s agents are women.
A discrimination claim was filed in 1974 and the suit in 1979, after which State Farm began hiring more women, Saperstein said. A three-month trial ended in April 1983, but Henderson gave no reason for the delay in delivering his opinion.
State Farm attorney Paul Laveroni said he hadn’t finished reading the 174- page ruling, but, ″Obviously, we don’t agree with his conclusions.″ He said there was no credible evidence that women were deterred from applying.
State Farm’s agents are among the best-paid in the industry. After a two- year training period, agents averaged $36,000 in their first year and $54,000 in their fourth year, according to 1981 figures quoted by the judge.
Henderson said State Farm kept women off its sales force in a variety of ways.
″Women have been told about educational requirements that did not exist ... and false information with respect to availability of positions,″ he said.
Secretaries, some of whom sold insurance in their offices, were told they were too valuable in their jobs to become agents, Henderson said. Women also were told the jobs were too dangerous and hours too long, he said.
State Farm’s television advertisements from 1970 to 1979 did not show any women as agents, Henderson said.
Of the three women who filed suit initially, two - Muriel Kraszewski of Los Angeles County and Daisy Jackson of Santa Clara County - were told that State Farm did not hire female agents, Henderson said. Ms. Jackson later became an agent trainee but was fired after missing some work due to a serious illness, a standard not applied to men, Henderson said.
Both women are now agents for Farmers Insurance Group. The third woman, Wilda Tipton of Ventura County, is still a State Farm office manager.