State Farm Settles Sex Discrimination Suit
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Hundreds of women denied jobs as agents with State Farm Insurance Co. in California could receive as much as $420,000 each in what one attorney said Tuesday may be a record sex discrimination settlement.
The settlement could cost State Farm $300 million, according to Guy Saperstein, attorney for Muriel Kraszewski, Wilda Tipton and Daisy Jackson, who filed suit against the company in 1979. The company called that figure a ″ridiculous guess.″
″This is probably the largest recorded settlement in the history of the Civil Rights Act,″ said Saperstein. ″It was the longest trial of employment discrimination in the Western United States.″
″I felt if I got $5.50 out of the whole thing I’d be lucky,″ said Kraszewski. ″I just never wanted (State Farm) to do this to any woman ever again.″
The settlement covers women who applied for and were denied 1,113 State Farm agent jobs in California from July 5, 1974, to Dec. 31, 1987. U.S. District Judge Thelton E. Henderson tentatively approved the agreement Tuesday.
The women who qualify for money under the agreement could be paid between $15,575 and $420,822 plus interest, depending on how long it has been since they applied for the jobs.
State Farm agreed to pay $420,822 each to Kraszewski, now an agent for Farmers Insurance in Long Beach; to Tipton, who is unemployed in Oxnard; and the estate of Jackson, who was from Palo Alto and died in 1983.
Part of the consent decree also called for the company to hire women for at least 50 percent of its sales agent jobs in California for the next 10 years.
At the time the suit was filed, only 1 percent of its agents in the state were women. But Saperstein said the company already has reached the 50 percent mark.
″State Farm is doing a good job and deserves a lot of credit,″ he said.
Jim Stahly, a State Farm spokesman at its corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Ill., said the exact amount the company will pay cannot be gauged until individual settlement conferences are held.
″That’s really a ridiculous guess at this point,″ he said, referring to the $300 million figure Saperstein estimated.
Stahly said of the company’s 16,318 agents nationwide, 2,955 are women and minorities. Of the 2,502 agents added since 1980, 2,418 were women or minorities, he said.
″It has never been the policy of this company to discriminate,″ Stahly said. ″If indeed some people were wronged along the way, we’ll get this thing taken care of.″
Claimants will have to go through hearings beginning in 1990 and will have to meet strict conditions. The filing period begins May 1 and all claims must be filed by Aug. 31.
Saperstein said his law firm has a list of 85,000 women who applied for jobs at State Farm or were employed by the company between 1974 and 1987.
Kraszewski, Tipton and Jackson, all office managers who were turned down for sales agents jobs, contended in their suit that while 80 percent of the people hired by State Farm were women, 99 percent of the higher paying agent jobs were given to men.
The women also said they were told they needed college degrees. During the trial, their lawyers proved that men without degrees were hired for the same positions.