Women file class action suit against MetLife

Wednesday, March 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Five women with long careers at insurance giant MetLife Inc. filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the company of discriminating against women in hiring, promotions and compensation and retaliating against those who complain.

``From entry-level positions through management, MetLife does not maintain a level playing field for women,'' said Adam Klein, one of the attorneys who filed the suit in federal district court in Manhattan on Tuesday.

Kevin Foley, a spokesman for MetLife, said company officials had not had an opportunity to review the lawsuit and could not comment. He said MetLife ``takes very seriously the issue of equal opportunity.''

According to the plaintiffs, women account for just 25 percent of MetLife's approximately 6,000 account representatives and only 7 percent of the company's 183 managing directors, who are charged with running local offices.

None of the three zone vice presidents or 17 regional vice presidents is a woman, they said.

Janet Ramsey said she has been with MetLife since 1983 and was promoted to managing director in charge of the northeast region of North Carolina in 1995.

In 1996 she sought the position of regional manager in Pennsylvania.

``The job was filled and I had not even had an opportunity to interview for it, and I asked my regional vice president about that and he said that they thought the position would be too rough for a woman,'' said Ramsey, one of four plaintiffs who announced the suit at a news conference in a midtown hotel.

Ramsey said she was denied resources to run her office and then was replaced by a man. ``I was given no notice, and no reason was given for this replacement,'' she said. ``When I questioned this action through human resources at MetLife, they retaliated even further against me by removing me from management entirely.''

Barbara LaChance said she joined MetLife in a clerical position in 1969. According to the lawsuit, she became an account representative in 1975 but was ``steered back'' into a clerical job some 18 months later. In 1994 she applied to be territorial administrator in Tampa, Fla. but was told ``she wasn't the man for the job.''

``I'm filing on behalf of all the hardworking women at MetLife, both present and future,'' she said.

The suit asserts that MetLife violated federal civil rights laws, as well as New York state and New York City anti-discrimination statutes. It seeks unspecified monetary damages and changes in company policy.

All of the women have also filed discrimination complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. An EEOC spokesman said the agency only comments after it takes action on a complaint.