Cigna Faces Class-Action Suit Alleging Discriminatory Employment Practices

Posted March 3rd, 2011.

As it appeared in BestWeek

BOSTON March 03 (BestWire) — A proposed class-action lawsuit has been filed by a female employee of Cigna Health Care, alleging discriminatory employment practices and seeking at least $100 million in damages.

Filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, Bretta Karp, a long-time Cigna provider contracting manager, sued the company on behalf of herself and a class of U.S. female employees, according to a statement from Sanford Wittels & Heisler, the law firm representing Karp.

The suit alleges Cigna discriminates against Karp and other female employees by treating them less favorably than its male employees in similar positions and by subjecting females to discriminatory denials of promotions and pay raises, discriminatory evaluations, disparate terms and conditions of work and hostile work environments.

Attempts to get comment from the Philadelphia-based Cigna Corp. (NYSE: CI), parent of Cigna Health Care, weren’t immediately successful. Karp joined Cigna as a contract manager in 1997 and since 2010, has been the provider contracting manager for Cigna’s Massachusetts and Rhode Island provider network comprising hospital systems and physicians, the statement said.

Despite “stellar” annual performance reviews, her salary was downgraded in 2004 without explanation while male employees with her same qualifications were put in a higher level salary band, the complaint alleges. In 2010, Karp’s territory responsibilities allegedly were reduced and a less qualified male employee was assigned to the territory she successfully managed for 13 years. That same year, she was denied a promotion for which she applied due to “a style thing,” the suit alleges.

Cigna also allegedly created a hostile work environment where male supervisors harass female employees.

The suit seeks certification of two classes —a national class and a Massachusetts class comprising current and former female Cigna employees. It also seeks compensatory and punitive damages for Karp and members of both classes of at least $100 million, and ongoing oversight by the court until requested employment reforms are in place.

On the morning of March 3, Cigna Corp.’s stock was trading at $43.30 a share, up 2.05% from the previous close.

Cigna HealthCare companies currently have Best’s Financial Strength Ratings of A (Excellent)

(By Fran Matso Lysiak, senior associate editor, BestWeek)

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