CIGNA Sued For Gender Discrimination in Class Action

Posted on: March 7th, 2011 by Steve Larson

A veteran Cigna Corp. manager sued the U.S. health insurer on March 3, 2011, saying it unfairly blocks female employees from promotions and higher-paying jobs.  The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, seeks $100 million in damages and asks for class-action status.

Bretta Karp, a 14-year-veteran of Cigna, charged in court papers the company last year denied her a promotion because she “came across as too aggressive” in an interview and went on to take away her largest territories after she complained.  The suit contends the Philadelphia-based company uses its employee-evaluation systems to block female workers from advancing into higher-paid positions by forcing their rankings into a bell curve.

“In effect, Cigna bars female employees from better and higher-paying positions which have traditionally been held by male employees,” the lawsuit contends.  It charges the company with violating the U.S. Civil Rights Act, as well as Massachusetts laws banning gender discrimination.

The suit reflects a culture where Americans for decades have discussed the problem of gender discrimination in the workplace without making much progress in solving it.  U.S. women are paid about 75 percent of what their male peers earn, according to a White House report released on March 1, 2011, which cited 2009 data.

The case is Karp v. Cigna Healthcare, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, No. 11-10361.