When Progressive Halcyon Insurance Co. branch manager Jerry Johnson informed employee Kelly Hackworth that her position was to be "re-leveled," she considered it just another blow in an already hostile work environment. A jury agreed and entered a $60 million verdict Feb. 22 against the Ohio-based insurance behemoth.
Hackworth, who joined Progressive in 1996, gradually climbed the company's ranks in both title and salary until Johnson became her manager in March 2002. At that point, Hackworth claims her career reached a standstill.
According to Hackworth's 2005 complaint, Johnson made discriminatory comments to her, such as "women should not be in the workplace, but instead should be at home raising
children and providing support to their husbands."
In 2004 management reduced Hackworth's salary 10 percent and placed her under supervision. The "re-leveling" continued until Progressive terminated Hackworth after she returned to work following an FMLA protected leave to care for her sick mother.