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‘Slavery Was Not All That Bad’: Current and Former Black Employees Sue Assurant, Claim Insurance Giant Fostered Racist Workplace

Two employees and a former employee at Assurant Inc. are suing the company for racial discrimination, alleging that the insurance provider pays Black workers less than their white peers.

Assurant sells insurance for appliances, cars, mobile devices, and tools. The company has about 15,600 employees worldwide and reported nearly $10 billion in revenue for 2021.

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Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA: https://www.pexels.com/photo/brass-colored-balance-scale-on-a-lawyer-s-table-6077961/

Assurant’s most recent equal opportunity data shows that the company had 2,084 Black employees in 2020, with about 690 of those working as mid-level managers.

A lawyer representing William Judson, Daris Steen, and Richard Stein has also accused Assurant of upholding a white-male dominated workplace where executives talk freely about how slavery wasn’t all that bad for Black people. The class-action lawsuit, filed June 2 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, asks the court to provide “monetary damages” to Judson, Steen and Stein, but doesn’t mention a specific amount.

(L-R) William Judson, Daris Steen, and Richard Stein (Photos: LinkedIn)

The lawsuit mentions instances at work in recent years where Judson, Steen, and Stein — who are all Black — were offended by a white manager’s behavior.

According to the plaintiffs’ filing, one instance was when an Assurant manager asked Black employees their thoughts about slavery. The manager then said, according to court papers, “The slaves should have been happy that they were no longer in Africa. Slavery was not all that bad for slaves because they had food and shelter from slave owners.”

Assurant has become a place of “devastating ongoing racial discrimination,” where white employees are promoted faster than Blacks, the lawsuit alleges. White employees often get higher base salaries, bonuses and commission, the lawsuit states, and complaints about the unfair treatment went unresolved whenever Judson, Steen, or Stein informed human resources.

“As alleged, Assurant engaged in this disgusting conduct for years while promoting the white managers responsible for the unlawful acts,” attorney Jeanne Christensen said in a statement. “We look forward to holding Assurant accountable for its unlawful discrimination as alleged in the complaint by our clients.”

Judson, 63, is a former district manager who said he was fired from Assurant once he complained to human resources about a co-worker saying he would “figure out a way to get rid of your old Black ass,” according to the lawsuit.

Stein is a current district manager who joined the company in 2014 and said he hasn’t received a promotion even though white male employees under him have been, the lawsuit states.

Steen joined Assurant in 2007 and is now a district manager for Assurant’s division that sells auto insurance.

“In over 50 years, not a single person of color has been in a position higher than Mr. Steen when he was an area manager in this division,” the lawsuit states.

Assurant did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

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