Five current and former employees of insurance giant Assurant Inc. have filed a lawsuit seeking class-action status against the company and three managers, alleging racial discrimination in both workplace culture and promotions.
The complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York alleges several incidents of racist behavior by management — including statements that American slavery “was not all that bad” and slaves “should have been happy.” The suit was filed June 2 and amended July 7.
In addition, the plaintiffs, all of whom are Black, claim they were passed over for promotions because of their race.
In a written statement, Assurant denied the allegations — saying they go against the company’s principles.
“Assurant stands firmly against discrimination of any kind,” the company wrote. “One of Assurant’s guiding principles is to promote and foster a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace. We deny these claims, are confident they will be found without merit and will defend this lawsuit vigorously to a successful conclusion.”
The three defendants named in the filing are all employed by Assurant Dealer Services.
Aside from stating slavery was “not that bad,” the complaint claims an Assurant manager not named as a defendant told a plaintiff that slavery was sanctioned by the Bible and slaves were “lucky to be brought to America.” Later, the same person asked a plaintiff why Black people were so “promiscuous with sex” and stated he hated the “culture” of the Black race, the complaint said.
In addition to those remarks, the complaint recalled a virtual meeting in which the manager pointed a rifle at the camera. His supervisor, who is one of the defendants, was in the meeting but did not take action against the person, the complaint said.
This same person, who has since left the company, allegedly made comments previously regarding a shortage of ammunition being bad for the “white majority.”
When the plaintiffs complained to human resources, one of the defendants began giving them the “silent treatment” — not responding to the complainants for eight months in one instance, the suit said.
As for promotions, the complaint outlines several situations in which the plaintiffs say less-qualified white applicants were selected over them.
In one instance, a plaintiff was told he needed a prerequisite position despite the position never existing. In many others, underperforming white applicants were picked instead of overperforming Black employees, the complaint said.
One of the defendants is often cited in the suit as the manager responsible for these promotion selections.
The affected class is suspected to number more than 40 members. The plaintiffs are requesting a jury trial and seeking unspecified monetary compensation.