November 24, 2014
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Health Giant Sued In Gender Bias Suit

 BOSTON -- Gender discrimination in the form of a hostile work environment and differential treatment of males and females occurs company-wide at CIGNA Health Care Inc., according to a class action compliant filed by a female CIGNA employee in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts today.

Longtime CIGNA Provider Contracting Manager Bretta Karp filed the complaint on behalf of herself and a class of female employees in the United States under Title VII of the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act and Massachusetts law.  She is represented in the matter by David W. SanfordKristen L. Walsh and Catharine Edwards of Sanford Wittels & Heisler, LLP, Washington, D.C.

The firm recently secured the largest jury award in the U.S. in an employment discrimination case in May 2010 when a jury returned a verdict of $253 million in compensatory and punitive damage against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.  After weeks of negotiations, the parties settled the case for $175 million.

According to the CIGNA complaint, CIGNA discriminates against Ms. Karp and other female employees by treating them less favorably than its male employees in similar positions and by subjecting all females to intentional, deliberate and willful discriminatory denials of promotions and pay raises, discriminatory evaluations, disparate terms and conditions of work, harassment, hostile work environments, and other forms of discrimination in callous disregard of their rights.

The complaint further details that CIGNA has created a hostile work environment where male supervisors harass and intimidate female employees, where management has made clear that it favors male employees over women, and where company investigations into complaints made by female employees are either nonexistent or superficial and inadequate.

"This suit seeks to remedy the effects of this discrimination on Ms. Karp and the lives, careers and working conditions of all other female employees, as well as to implement substantive changes company-wide to prevent continued gender discrimination at CIGNA," said David Sanford, partner at Sanford Wittels & Heisler and lead counsel in the case.  

The complaint seeks certification of two classes – a national class and a State of Massachusetts class comprising current and former female CIGNA employees.  Ms. Karp is the Class Representative and a member of both classes.

Ms. Karp joined CIGNA as a Contract Manager in 1997 after the company acquired her former employer, Healthsource Inc.  Between 1997 and 2004, Ms. Karp held various jobs -- including Director, Assistant Vice President of Contracting and Senior Contract Negotiator – for CIGNA's VermontMassachusetts and Rhode Island territories. Since 2010, Ms. Karp has been the Provider Contracting Manager for CIGNA's Massachusetts and Rhode Island provider network comprising hospital systems and physician and other health care profession groups.  Today's Complaint asserts that pervasive gender discrimination at CIGNA prevented Ms. Karp from advancing into higher and better paying positions and subjected her to active and ongoing gender hostility from her male co-workers.

Despite stellar annual performance reviews, in 2004, Ms Karp's salary level was downgraded without explanation while male employees with her same qualifications were put in a higher level salary band.  In addition, in 2010, Ms. Karp's territory responsibilities were reduced and a less qualified male employee was assigned to the territory she has successfully managed for 13 years and in that same year she was denied a promotion for which she applied due to "a style thing," according to  a senior director at CIGNA involved in filling that position.

The complaint seeks an award of compensatory, nominal and punitive damages to Ms. Karp and the members of both classes in an amount of not less than $100 million, along with litigation costs and expenses and prejudgment interest and ongoing oversight by the Court until the requested employment reforms are in place.

CIGNA Healthcare, Inc. is a global health organization headquartered in Philadelphia.  Its core businesses are health care products and services and group disability, life, health and accident insurance. The company's full-year revenues in 2009 were$18.4 billion.

About Sanford Wittels & Heisler, LLP

Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP (SWH) is a boutique class-action litigation law firm with offices in New YorkWashington, D.C., and San Francisco. SWH specializes in civil rights and general public interest cases, representing plaintiffs with employment discrimination, labor and wage violations, predatory lending, whistleblower, consumer fraud, and other claims. Along with an expertise in class actions, SWH also represents select individuals and has developed a particular expertise in the representation of executives in employment disputes.  


STORY TAGS: Women News, Minority News, Discrimination, Diversity, Female, Underrepresented, Equality, Gender Bias, Equality



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