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Judy Greenwald

Insurer not liable for sex bias for not hiring female worker

February 5, 2014 - 3:08pm

Sex Discrimination Case


An insurance company did the right thing by restarting a hiring process in response to a female worker's complaint, but it is not liable for sexual discrimination for not hiring the complaining worker, an appeals court has ruled.

Katherine Reeves, who works as a claims assistant for the Waynesboro, Tenn., office of Columbia, Tenn.-based Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Co., was told by Regional Claims Manager Mike Delk when she applied in late 2010 for an adjuster's job that he would not hire a woman for the position because he had safety concerns about women in that job, according to Tuesday's ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in Katherine Reeves v. Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Co.

When a male applicant was offered the position, Ms. Reeves complained to Farmer's vice president of claims, who decided to start the hiring process over, according to the ruling. While the regional claims manager no longer was involved, Ms. Reeves was interviewed but rejected for the position and another female applicant was selected.

Interviewers said Ms. Reeves had been “anxious and difficult to follow” during the interview, that she rambled and didn't respond to questions, and that she was overly critical of co-workers, according to the ruling.

Ms. Reeves filed suit in February 2012 against Farmers, alleging gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Tennessee Human Rights Act, among other assertions.

A federal judge in Nashville granted Farmers' motion to dismiss the case on the basis that Ms. Reeves could not show that a similarly situated male filled the position because Farmers hired a qualified woman for the job.

In its ruling Tuesday, the three-judge appeals court panel agreed.

“Once Farmers found out about Delk's … discrimination, it did exactly what it was supposed to do,” the court ruled unanimously. “Reeve's claims fail as matter of law.”

 



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