State Farm, the nation’s largest property and casualty insurer has been the target of several lawsuits that allege that the company has a history of racial discrimination, the New York Times reports.
Numerous agents of color, employees, customers have accused the insurance giant of various forms of racial discrimination. One lawsuit filed in 2020, states that the company discriminated against seven agents. Another suit, filed last month by a former Indian American employee, claims he was subjected to racial harassment by his co-workers.
Darryl Williams, who owned several residential buildings on the South Side of Chicago, had a pipe burst in one of his buildings that had six apartments and he called State Farm to cover the cost of the repairs.
Williams, who lives in a majority Black community, said the claims adjuster from State Farm told him that she did not believe his story about what happened to the property was true.
“We have a lot of fraud in your area,” he said the adjuster told him.
Although State Farm paid Williams it was for a significantly reduced amount of his initial claim. After filing around $400,000 in claims, which State Farm initially denied, the total amount he was paid totaled $56,000, according to court filings. To cover his expenses, he eventually had to sell his properties.
Carla Campbell-Jackson worked for State Farm for 28 years in Illinois and Michigan. In 2016, she was fired for allegedly sharing confidential information outside the company, a claim she vehemently denies. She said her termination was a part of State Farm's scheme to ruin her reputation because she had raised concerns that the company hid behind allegations of fraud to deny Black customers their insurance claims. She has also sued State Farm, accusing it of discrimination and retaliation.
“Discrimination played no role in Campbell-Jackson’s termination,” Michael Trout, the chief human resources officer of State Farm, said in the video that was distributed to employees about her firing.
While working in State Farm’s special investigations unit that reviewed claims that adjusters' labeled as fraudulent, she became familiar with the term “fill the cups,” according to her testimony in Williams’s case.
Top-level executives encouraged adjusters to flag more claims for further investigation so that they could deny as many claims as possible. They described the practice as “shaking hands and kissing babies.”
Investigators were reminded in weekly meetings to “fill the cups” by focusing on claims from “inner city” neighborhoods that were characterized as “high risk for fraud,” which made them easier to deny.
After suggesting that a certain neighborhood on the list may not contain fraudulent activities, her boss had said, “Oh, yes, there is fraud in those areas.”
In 2016, unit leaders announced that the unit had denied almost $136 million in claims the previous year, which they attributed to the success of the program.
“‘Fill the cups’ was simply a means of denying payment of millions of dollars to African American and other minority policyholders,” Campbell-Jackson argued.
Robert McLaughlin, an attorney for Campbell-Jackson, said he was representing more than 150 current and former State Farm employees of color who plan to file their lawsuits against the company
In an email, Roszell Gadson, a company spokesman, addressed the allegations.
“Recent allegations of discrimination do not reflect the State Farm culture,” Gadson said. “We use our business as a force for good and believe that racism has no place anywhere in society.”