SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A former Esurance call center employee is suing the insurance company for alleged anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination.
Brandon Marshall, a former employee in Sioux Falls, S.D., claims in a lawsuit that he was called a "whiny Jew" by his supervisor for reporting an injury, and that he endured epithets from a human resource manager after winning company tickets to a baseball game.
His lawsuit was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of South Dakota.
Marshall’s complaint said he had to hire a lawyer to secure time off for Jewish Sabbath, and that he was targeted for a performance audit and wrongfully terminated after reporting the issues to upper management.
At one point, after transferring to a different supervisor, Marshall says he received text messages from an unknown number accusing him of “messing with” a woman.
“We have wiped plenty of Jews off this planet before. We don’t need you at work and we don’t need you in our city. When you go back to California, stay there,” the message read.
That message and several others are attached to his complaint.
San Francisco-based Esurance, which is a subsidiary of Allstate, said it could not comment on the lawsuit directly, but said it has several programs in place to address claims of discrimination based on disability or ethnicity.
Company spokeswoman Dolleen Cross said diversity and inclusion always have been priorities and are "a deeply-rooted part of our values."
"Esurance takes accusations of discrimination and failure to provide accommodation for disabilities very seriously and is investigating these allegations," Cross wrote.
The former sales agent began working for the company in 2012 and transferred from Rocklin, Calif., to Sioux Falls in 2015.
He previously raised questions of discrimination in California in 2014 and 2015, after written warnings from supervisors for unspecified behavior. Action was taken before his transfer, the complaint said, though he was docked two months of commission for the second written warning.
In Sioux Falls, he told his supervisors he would need time off on Fridays for Sabbath, and also that he is dyslexic and has attention deficit disorder (ADD). The twin disabilities “allow him to process information quickly but also cause him to lose focus or incorrectly type or input information,” the complaint says.
The alleged anti-Semitic incidents took place between May 2015 and June 2016, and he reported each in turn, the complaint said.
He raised the issue of targeting when he was audited by a branch manager in 2016. He told the auditor that dyslexia and ADD probably contributed to his error rate. Four days after writing a letter about feeling targeted, the company produced a report saying he’d initiated 395 “invalid payment transactions” in the first half of the year. The average was 35.
Sixteen employees had initiated 160 or more invalid transactions, the report said, and "any associate" with numbers that high would be terminated. Marshall was fired 12 days later, but only two other high-error employees were.
The report, Marshall’s complaint said, was “a pretext to terminate Plaintiff’s employment.”
The South Dakota Department of Labor referred the case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which declined to prosecute Esurance but issued Marshall a "right to sue" letter.
Cross said Wednesday that the company is committed to educating employees on how to create an environment of dignity and respect, noting the company's creation of a diversity and inclusion council and its eBility Employee Resource Group to address barriers for employees with disabilities.
Marshall's complaint accuses Esurance of nine separate violations of the Civil Rights and Americans with Disabilities acts, including wrongful termination, retaliation, creating a hostile work environment and failure to accommodate religious practices.
A 10th count alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Marshall is asking for back pay and unspecified monetary damages.
His legal team declined to comment on the case beyond the legal filings.
Follow John Hult on Twitter: @ArgusJHult