Lynne Coates, who worked as an attorney for Farmers Insurance, has filed a gender discrimination lawsuit in San Jose, California against the company on behalf of herself and other current and past female lawyers for the insurer. According to the complaint, Coates’ $99,000 annual salary was substantially less than that of male Farmers Insurance lawyers handling similar work, which were between $150,000 and $200,000.
In addition to allegations that Farmers pays its male attorneys more, the complaint also states that the company routinely gives higher profile work assignments to men, gives raises and promotions more frequently to men, and recognizes only men for their accomplishments. Coates claims that, “Farmers advances the careers of its male attorneys more quickly while treating its female attorneys more like support staff.”
When Coates learned of the discrepancy between her salary and that of her male colleagues with similar work, she brought it to Farmers’ attention. Allegedly, her supervisor responded by downgrading her duties so that she was essentially doing paralegal work, despite her 18 years of experience as a lawyer.
Coates seeks all legal and equitable relief available pursuant to multiple state and federal employment laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, and the California Equal Pay Act.
The Equal Pay Act prohibits workplace discrimination based on sex, providing that, “No employer . . . shall discriminate . . . between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees . . . at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex . . . for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.”
If it is found that Farmers did engage in systemic gender discrimination against its female attorney-employees through unequal pay, they may face severe financial penalties and also be ordered to pay back-pay.
Sacramento, CA 95821