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Woman accuses Bloomington-based State Farm of retaliatory firing after she reported racism, discrimination

Carla Campbell-Jackson said she regularly earned “best in class” job reviews, until she complained to her employer about racism.

Carla Campbell-Jackson, a former State Farm Insurance employee of 28 years, speaks at a news conference Thursday announcing a lawsuit against State Farm. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Carla Campbell-Jackson spent 28 years working for Bloomington-based State Farm Insurance.

For all of that time, Campbell-Jackson was, she says, a dedicated employee whose work ethic won her praise and endless accolades — that was, until she spoke up in 2016 about what she saw as a pervasive racist culture at the company.

“It was at that time that State Farm’s swift and harsh and brutal hands of racism and retaliation landed on me like a ton of bricks,” said Campbell-Jackson, speaking at the Rainbow-PUSH headquarters on the South Side Thursday.

Campbell-Jackson, who is Black, said in a federal lawsuit filed this month that State Farm retaliated by firing her in 2016, with the company telling her she’d sent “sensitive personal information” through her email. She said the company later offered her $175,000 in “hush money.”

“I courageously walked away from it ... because racism and discrimination cannot be bought away,” she said.

Campbell-Jackson later filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found she was “harassed due to her race, and discharged in retaliation for complaining about harassment,” according to a copy of an EEOC letter filed with the lawsuit.

The EEOC said it could not comment on what happened with Campbell-Jackson’s complaint because “federal law prevents disclosure of potential claim information prior to public disclosure via court action.”

State Farm, in a statement Thursday, said the EEOC chose not to litigate the matter on behalf of Campbell-Jackson.

The company, which said it “embraces diversity and inclusion,” reiterated that Campbell-Jackson was terminated “because she shared sensitive, confidential personal customer and employee information outside of our organization.”

Campbell-Jackson said she had worked in Bloomington but in 2016, was working at State Farm facilities in Portage, Mich.

“I am here to tell State Farm, from a Biblical perspective, just like David stood up to Goliath: State Farm, I am the David and I have five smooth stones and I haven’t tossed one yet,” Campbell-Jackson said Thursday.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump stood with Campbell-Jackson, calling the exhibits in the case examples of “outrageous, horrific racism.”

One such exhibit is an April 18, 2016 letter believed to have been sent by “a group of State Farm employees” to Campbell-Jackson and other minority workers at the company, according to the lawsuit.

The letter, sent from “the silent majority,” states, among other things: “A lot of us agree with our next president. We thank President Trump and no one can force us not to exercise our right to vote. Hispanish [sic] are lazy and cannot speak English well. Blacks are uneducated [maybe one or two exceptions] and Muslims are at the bottom of the barrel with the Hispanish.”

The lawsuit also states that on one occasion, “State Farm employees attempted to force Dr. Campbell-Jackson to kiss a live pig as a form of racist humiliation.”

When she reported instances of racism and discrimination to “upper leadership,” “her reports, however, were blatantly dismissed and met with harsh pushback,” according to the suit.

State Farm, in its statement, said, “While we admire Ben Crump’s important civil rights work, we fundamentally disagree with the facts Carla Campbell-Jackson is presenting in this case. We believe these allegations are without merit as they run counter to our values and who we are as an organization. In our defense of these allegations, we will provide important facts that Campbell-Jackson has failed to present.”