DES MOINES, Iowa — Three longtime Wellmark employees are suing the company over alleged racial discrimination.
Janice Lintz, Tylonda Mason and David Tindrell have a combined 88 years with Wellmark. In the suit filed in Polk County District Court, the group claims “African Americans have been systematically denigrated and harassed, denied training opportunities and mentorship given to Caucasian employees, been excluded from promotions, subjected to higher and more subjective standards than other employees in all aspects of employment, and required to meet more onerous criteria than their coworkers.”
“I have seen over the course throughout my employment, discriminatory practices. Whether it’s unconscious or conscious, it does happen and it exists in the company and it’s frustrating,” said Lintz, who started working at Wellmark in 1981.
“We think they’re a wonderful company. They do a lot of good things right. However, in this area, there needs to be focus, attention and correction,” said Tindrell,
“The performance reviews, the promotions, the mentoring, the succession planning — we get a lot of things right — but we’re failing there,” added Lintz.
Lintz says of the 230 management positions at Wellmark, only five are held by African Americans.
“I’m good at my job by peers and customers. But the recognition and job opportunity advancement seems to go to the Caucasian peers that I have,” said Mason.
“What we’ve experienced, the disadvantage of being African American and not being treated as fairly as our counterparts, has been perpetual,” Tindrell said.
“It takes a lot of courage to sue your employer when you’re working there. They’re all working there and they hope to continue working there and they all love their jobs. What they don’t love is being treated differently,” explained attorney Roxanne Conlin.
Wellmark responded to the lawsuit. Traci McBee, senior public relations manager at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, issued this statement.
“Based on Wellmark’s investigation of the allegations of the lawsuit, they are unfounded and without merit. We look forward to the opportunity to fully vindicate ourselves against these claims. Wellmark has a long-standing history and commitment to supporting and celebrating diversity and inclusion. In fact, Wellmark received a 100 percent score from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2020 Corporate Equality Index. Additionally, other respected publications have recognized Wellmark’s inclusive culture, including:
Profiles in Diversity Journal Diversity Team Award 2020, Diverseability Magazine Best of the Best 2020, Black EOE Journal Best of the Best 2019, Professional Woman’s Magazine Best of the Best 2019, U.S. Veterans’ Magazine Best of the Best 2019, Hispanic Network Best of the Best 2019.”
You can read the petition here.