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State Farm faces a 2nd race discrimination lawsuit

State Farm headquarters sign
Emily Bollinger
A former State Farm employee claims in a lawsuit the insurance company fired her for speaking out against what she calls State Farm's "culture of racism, discrimination and retaliation."
Updated: February 17, 2022 at 2:41 PM CST
This story has been updated to include State Farm's response and details of a discrimination lawsuit filed against the company in 2020.

A former State Farm employee is suing the Bloomington-based insurance giant, claiming the company fired her because she complained about its culture of racism and discrimination.

In the lawsuit filed in McLean County court, Shashi Mandhyan alleged her direct supervisor and others regularly subjected her to harassment and abuse as an Asian-American of Indian descent. Among the allegations, Mandhyan said her coworkers would make fun of her culture and deliberately mispronounce her name by calling her “sushi.”

Shashi Mandhyan speaking at news conference
Shashi Mandhyan spoke as attorney Ben Crump, left, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson look on during a news conference at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters in Chicago.

“My name is Shashi, State Farm,” Mandhyan said during a virtual news conference held Wednesday morning at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters in Chicago. “By giving me names and mocking my ethnicity, through disallowing me career opportunity, State Farm encouraged racism.”

Mandhyan worked at State Farm for 19 years. She said the abuse happened after she moved to its banking division in 2018, where she handled consumer loan requests. She was fired in March 2020 allegedly for violating the company’s code of conduct, anti-harassment policy and dishonesty, according to the complaint.

Noted civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who has represented the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Jelani Day, has taken the case along with a Chicago law firm.

Crump said State Farm has been dismissive of the claims. “State Farm, you are crazy for trying to deny the existence of this discrimination and trying to sweep this under the rug,” Crump said at a news conference.

Crump noted more than 150 current and former State Farm employees have alleged “blatant discrimination” at the company.

The lawsuit indicated the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) determined last October that it found “substantial evidence” of discrimination and retaliation against Mandhyan.

Mandhyan is requesting a jury trial and is seeking a minimum of $50,000 in damages. A hearing in the case has been set for July 6.

State Farm said in a statement the company disagrees with the allegations in the complaint.

"State Farm has long been committed to a diverse and inclusive environment, where all of our associates and customers are treated with respect and dignity, and where differences are valued. These allegations do not reflect the State Farm culture," the statement said.

The lawsuit is the second discrimination lawsuit filed against State Farm in recent months. A former claims section manager raised similar allegations stemming from her time working for the company in Michigan.

Class-action lawsuit

State Farm is also seeking to dismiss a class-action lawsuit filed in 2020 by seven former and current State Farm agents who allege racial discrimination and retaliation.

Alton Williams, Brandon Herndon, Markus Tolson, Jeffrey Flowers, Brooke Cluse, Vvonaka Richardson and Vera Dixon filed the suit in the U.S. District Court in Chicago.

The lawsuit alleges State Farm's Black agents are paid substantially less than their counterparts due to "systemic, intentional race discrimination and company-wide discriminatory practices."

No trial date has been set in that case.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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