SOURCE: Leon Morris

April 10, 2006 13:18 ET

Lawsuit Against Trade Association for Discriminatory Hiring Practices Is Amended to Allege Negligence Against Each Board Member and to Raise Monetary Damages Sought to $82 Million Says Leon


ATLANTA, GA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- April 10, 2006 --Today a lawsuit alleging discriminatory hiring practices against Life Office Management Association (LOMA), an international trade association of the life insurance industry, and its board of directors was amended by Leon Morris, RFC, CLU, ACS, ChFC, CME, RMP®, FFSI, the plaintiff in the suit, to include allegations of negligence against each individual member of LOMA's board of directors and to raise the requested monetary damages to $82 million. The lawsuit has been amended to individually name Lawrence Arth, Chairman & CEO, UNIFI, John Bremer, COO, Northwestern Mutual, Robert Steve Briggs, Executive VP, Protective Life Insurance Company, C. Joe Dahl, VP, Underwriting, Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, Thomas Donaldson, President and CEO, LOMA, Alan Feagin, President and CEO, Assurant Preneed, Dennis Glass, President and CEO, Jefferson-Pilot Life Insurance Company, David Holland, President and CEO, Munich American Reassurance Company, Thomas MacLeavy, Chairman, President and CEO, National Life Group, Kevin Marti, Senior VP, Division Officer, Erie Family Life, Erie Insurance Group, David McFarlane, VP and COO, Wawanesa Life Insurance Company, Paul Rutledge, President, Transamerica Reinsurance, Susan Waring, Executive VP and Chief Administrative Officer, State Farm Life Insurance Company, James Zilinski, Retired Chairman, President and CEO, Berkshire Life Insurance Company of America, and Lizabeth Zlatkus, President, International Wealth Management and Group Benefits, Hartford Life.

The lawsuit filed March 1, 2006 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia alleges an eighty-two year history of a glass ceiling for African American employees and recent willful violations of equal employment opportunity laws. "Through its attorneys, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., LOMA filed a motion to have the suit against the board of directors dismissed on the grounds that the board of directors isn't a legal entity, so I've amended my lawsuit to include allegations of negligence in the discharge of his or her duties against each member of LOMA's board of directors because each board member must be held accountable for the discriminatory views, attitudes, employment practices, and personnel policies that have been allowed to persist and permeate LOMA," says Morris.

"There's only one African American manager at LOMA to my knowledge, and that person is manager of the mailroom. LOMA claims to be an equal opportunity employer, but when it comes to positions above manager, it may as well post a sign that says 'whites only need apply.' In a letter I received from Thomas Donaldson, he stated that my allegations regarding LOMA's eighty-two year history of discriminatory employment practices are 'irrelevant' and that LOMA doesn't 'unfairly' discriminate. How does one 'fairly' discriminate? It's as if Donaldson doesn't realize that race isn't a valid occupational qualification," says Morris.

"The insignificance LOMA placed on allegations of employment discrimination and a glass ceiling that hinders African Americans from being hired into positions of director and above also shows through in that one of two lead attorneys LOMA has chosen to represent them is only six months out of law school and rather than answering my complaint or resolving the matter, through its attorneys LOMA filed a motion to have the complaint dismissed for reasons that have nothing to do with the merits of the case. An answer could have been filed with the motion; however, they delayed filing an answer by instead arguing that an EEOC document that was received two days after the lawsuit was filed wasn't attached when the suit was filed, even though LOMA received that document on the same day I did. By using legal tactics that delay and make it costly, difficult, and time consuming, mounting a legal challenge to fight discrimination results in undue financial hardship. That's one of the reasons why discrimination continues to exist even where there are laws that prohibit it. LOMA's board of directors has ultimate responsibility for making sure LOMA's written employment policies are practiced throughout the organization and that any unwritten policies comply with the law. Rather than holding the wrong doers responsible or taking corrective actions, LOMA's board seems to have given the okay to circle the wagons and fight off anyone who dares to expose what's been going on at LOMA for decades," says Morris.

"Being that LOMA receives at least $7 million in tax benefits every year due to its status as a tax-exempt organization, even taxpayers should voice a say in whether or not their tax dollars should support discriminatory practices. I've added a page to my website to provide contact information to the IRS so that taxpayers can voice their opinions. LOMA isn't a private club that can choose its members. I believe that violating laws that prohibit employment discrimination is an abuse of its tax-exempt status," says Morris.

"LOMA was formed in 1924. It's had decades to implement pro-diversity measures that would have avoided this situation entirely, and before filing the lawsuit and then again before filing this amendment, I made settlement offers to LOMA that included taking steps that would have improved diversity within the organization. I was just seeking a job at the director level. It wasn't my intent to bring on the wrath of hundreds of insurance companies, but I don't know of any other way to bring about accountability for discriminatory practices and bring down the walls that are holding up LOMA's glass ceiling. It's easy for companies to talk about ethics and embracing diversity, but change doesn't take place until people within the companies walk the talk," says Morris.

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