Wetzel v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company

Decision Date20 February 1974
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 72-169.
Citation372 F. Supp. 1146
PartiesSandra WETZEL and Mari Ross on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, a corporation, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania


Robert F. Stone, Howard A. Specter, Litman, Litman, Harris & Specter, Pittsburgh, Pa., for plaintiffs.

Kalvin M. Grove, Lederer, Fox & Grove, Chicago, Ill., Robert A. Penney, Boston, Mass., Clem R. Kyle, Pittsburgh, Pa., for defendant.

Milton A. Smith, Gen. Counsel, Richard B. Berman, Chamber of Commerce of the U. S., Washington, D. C., George Smetana, Laurence D. Ehrlich, Julian D. Schrieber, Chicago, Ill., Walter P. DeForest, III, Pittsburgh, Pa., amicus curiae for defendants.

Beth L. Don, EEOC, Washington, D. C., James F. Bennett, EEOC, Pittsburgh, Pa., amicus curiae for plaintiffs.


WEBER, District Judge.

The two named Plaintiffs on behalf of themselves and all other female technical employees employed in Defendant Liberty Mutual Insurance Company's Claims Department (the Company) have filed a Complaint charging that the Company discriminated against women in hiring, job classification, promotions, and in the compensation and job benefits they received for the jobs they were allowed to hold.

The Representative Plaintiffs are Sandra Wetzel, a woman, who was hired by Defendant Company as a "Claims Representative" in July 1967, and Mari Ross, who was hired by Defendant Company as a "Claims Representative" in September 1967. Both allege that they suffered discrimination by reason of their sex because of the hiring, job classification, pay differential, and employment benefit policies of Defendant Company and that these policies were applied to all female technical employees in the Defendant's Claims Department throughout the nation where Defendant Company did business.

The court determined that the action should proceed as a class action covering all female technical employees in the Defendant's Claims Department in the entire geographical area where the Company did business. The class as now defined includes all such employees who were hired or working for the Company in its Claims Department since July 2, 1965, the effective date of Title VII of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972.

Extensive discovery has been employed and the Plaintiffs now file a motion for partial summary judgment on certain of the issues raised. It is agreed between the parties that one of the issues, designated the "equal pay" issue, is not susceptible of summary judgment at this time because there are disputed issues of fact with respect to whether or not the work performed by women in the job classification of "Claims Representative" was equal to the work performed by men in the job classification of "Claims Adjuster" for which they were paid a substantially higher salary. However, the Plaintiffs at this time allege that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact with respect to the job classification under which men and women were originally hired as technical employees in the Claims Department, with regard to the promotional policy within the Claims Department, and with regard to the pregnancy and maternity leave policies of the Company including the disability income protection plan of the Company as applied to women on maternity leave.

The key point of discrimination set forth in the pleadings, evidentiary material and briefs of the plaintiffs, and the amicus curiae brief of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the hiring policy of the Company, since original assignment in effect determines the employee's future chances of promotion within the Company. Because the Company in its Claims Department promotes from its own ranks, the opportunity for advancement depends upon the entry level position to which an employee is assigned upon first being employed by the Company's claim division. Promotion to the higher rank of Claims Supervisor was limited to persons holding the position of Claims Adjuster and throughout most of the period under consideration through 1970 was limited to male employees because all Claims Adjusters were male. On the other hand the entry level classification in the Company's Claims Department of "Claims Representative" was exclusively limited to women throughout most of the period under consideration here. There was no avenue of promotion to Claims Supervisor and higher supervisory positions from those personnel classified as "Claims Representatives" on entry into the Company in its Claims Division.

There were two higher supervisory positions in the "Claims Representative" category, that of "Supervising Claims Representative" and "Claims Representative Supervisor", but no promotion beyond the second rank. Although the line of responsibility from "Claims Representative Supervisor" runs to "Claims Supervisor" there is no similar line of promotion because all "Claims Supervisors" are drawn from the ranks of "Claims Adjuster".

The lines of responsibility and promotion are illustrated as follows:

The same educational requirements were in 1965 and thereafter until 1970 with respect to the hiring of "Claims Adjusters" and "Claims Representatives", a college degree. No prior experience in the insurance business was required and in fact the Company did not hire persons who had worked for other insurance companies in its entry level positions in the Claims Department.

Although the Defendant Company had employed "Claims Adjusters" for a long period of time the position of "Claims Representative" was created in mid-1965. The position was created when the Company had decided to handle more of its claims work from inside its offices. A recruiting brochure for this position was prepared and circulated through college placement offices and employment agencies. The qualification for the "Claims Representative" position included a college degree. The recruiting brochure is entirely female oriented. Its title page bears the caption and picture identifying the position as a job fit for a queen. It shows women in its illustrations of persons performing their duties in this capacity. Between July 1, 1965 and the end of 1966, 401 persons were hired for the positions of "Claims Representative", not one of which was male. Between July 1, 1965 and March 17, 1972, 2,329 persons were hired as "Claims Representatives" of which 2,302 or 98.84% were women. The first male "Claims Representative" was hired in 1969, four in 1970, and twenty in 1971. During the period from 1965 until the end of 1970, the Company hired over 2,000 "Claims Adjusters", not one of which was female.

The recruiting brochure used by the Company during this period describing the position and duties of "Claims Adjusters" was entirely male oriented, its illustrations showing men performing the duties of the position, and bearing the legend in large type, "Are you the right man?", and reciting the avenues of advancement from Claims Adjuster through Branch Office Claims Manager, Division Claims Manager, Manager Home Office Examiners' Division, and so on up the ladder. The Company promoted to advanced positions in its Claims Department solely from those persons who had served it in the capacity of "Claims Adjuster".

The two Representative Plaintiffs were hired in the position of "Claims Representative" and they have deposed that in answer to their inquiries they were informed that the position of "Claims Adjuster", the beginning of the promotional ladder in the Claims Department, was not available for women. It has been admitted by representatives of the Defendant that the two named Representative Plaintiffs were qualified for the position of "Claims Adjuster" at the time of the original hiring.

It would serve little purpose to recite in detail the great mass of statistical evidence which the Plaintiffs have produced in support of their contention that the two initial entry positions were segregated between male and female applicants, that the educational requirement for both positions was the same, that no prior insurance experience was required for either position, that the functions performed in these positions were very similar, that the pay differential between the positions was substantial, being approximately $2,500 per year greater for the Claims Adjuster, that prior to 1971 no opportunity was given to women "Claims Representatives" to qualify for the position of "Claims Adjuster", and that all promotions to higher positions in the Claims Department were made from the ranks of the exclusively male "Claims Adjuster" classification.

In addition to the statistical evidence which is unrebutted here the Plaintiffs have produced additional supporting evidence of the Company's employment policies with respect to women in the Claims Division. Much of this evidence is in the form of oral testimony and affidavits which may be subject to a question of credibility but a good deal of the supporting evidence is documentary and supports the Plaintiffs' contention of a recognized pattern of treating the male and female employees in the Claims Department differently in respect to recruitment, hiring classifications, promotional opportunities, and salary.

We are not speaking of salary or compensation with respect to the question of whether equal pay was given for the same work but in connection with the entry level salary paid for the two classifications and the salary differential between "Claims Representatives" of considerable experience and the starting salary which they could receive when openings were finally made available to "Claims Representatives" to become "Claims Adjusters".

Two sections of Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 are applicable to our consideration of Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) provides in part:

"The judgment sought

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    ...30 L.Ed.2d 543 (1971).16 Grasping the connection Gilbert failed to make, a District Court opinion pre-Gilbert,Wetzel v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 372 F.Supp. 1146 (W.D.Pa.1974), published this deft observation. In response to an employer's argument that its disadvantageous maternity leave and ......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Justice Ginsburg's Cautious Legacy for the Equal Rights Amendment
    • United States
    • Georgetown Law Journal No. 110-6, June 2022
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