According to an explosive report from The Washington Examiner, one of the nation’s largest health insurance providers actively discriminates against white males in hiring and pushes Marxist critical race theory on its staff. Cigna reportedly urges staff to check various kinds of “privilege,” to avoid using terms like “Wives/husband,” and to read books that claim America is systemically racist. In a statement to PJ Media, Cigna condemned racism and discrimination and insisted its positions were open to qualified applicants, regardless of race. The company did not explicitly deny using racial quotas or address claims about its training materials.
“Given the hiring practices they have in place where white, male candidates are blocked, regardless of qualifications, I have to say, ‘Yes, there’s obvious discrimination at this company,'” an anonymous employee told the Washington Examiner.
In chat logs reviewed by the Examiner, a hiring manager rejected a candidate with strong credentials who had performed well in an interview — because the hiring manager mistakenly thought the candidate was white. An employee corrected the manager, noting that the candidate was indeed a minority, and then the manager said she was excited to hire him, despite learning almost nothing else about his background.
An employee also suggested a candidate with years of industry experience, but the hiring manager said the candidate, a white man, could not be interviewed because he did not meet the diversity criteria.
Some employees told the Examiner that these racial quotas often translate to an inability to fill jobs in departments focused on tech or data. “I can’t fill these jobs,” an employee said.
“Cigna stands for equity and equality,” a company spokesperson told PJ Media. “We do not tolerate racism and discrimination in the workplace. We confront these issues through listening and open discussion and with intensity, empathy and accountability.”
“It is important to note that our recruiting practices are focused on qualifications, abilities, aptitude and attitude for open roles, regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, or any other demographics,” the spokesperson added. “While we have not been able to validate the internal exchange highlighted in the recent story, we encourage all colleagues who have any concerns or questions to contact our 24/7, confidential Ethics Office.”
This statement appears to deny the claims regarding racial diversity quotas in hiring, but when PJ Media asked the spokesperson to clarify the statement with an explicit denial, the spokesperson did not respond.
The spokesperson also did not address or explain the extensive critical race theory trainings recounted in the Examiner‘s story.
Cigna, valued in the tens of billions, boasts over 73,000 employees in offices across the world. Company staff gave the Examiner screenshots of employee trainings that forbade certain phrases as insufficiently “inclusive.”
A spreadsheet urged staff to avoid certain words or phrases and to use others, instead. For instance, “Wives/husbands/boyfriends/Girlfriends” is out — “Spouse/Partner” is in. “Parenting” should replace “Mothering/Fathering.” “Humankind” should replace “Mankind.” Even “Hip Hip Hooray!” is off limits.
Perhaps most ironically, the spreadsheet singles out “China Virus” as particularly offensive. Next to the term, the spreadsheet says, “NO alternatives—discontinue use.” Technically, such a directive would ban Cigna employees from speaking about COVID-19 at all.
The Cigna training also encouraged staff to use a “‘Societal Norms’ Checklist.” The form encourages staff to “check your privilege.” Various forms of “privilege” include “Able-bodied,” “Age (25-55),” “Christian,” “Cis-Male,” “Heterosexual,” “Upper Class,” and “White.”
While a few of these aspects — able-bodied and upper class — clearly do translate to a form of privilege, the “privilege” of other identities is quite debatable. Jack Phillips, a Christian baker repeatedly targeted for his faith, seems not to enjoy any “privilege” from being Christian. It seems white males who apply for a job at Cigna have the opposite of “privilege.” While younger people are considered lucky for various reasons, 25-year-old applicants more often lack the experience necessary to get the jobs they want.
This training makes a perverse kind of sense in the context of Marxist critical race theory, however. Critical race theory teaches that any racial disparities must ipso facto be proof of some hidden racial bias or discrimination, regardless of civil rights laws explicitly forbidding such discrimination. While this often translates to claims of “white privilege,” Asian Americans have also warned that critical race theory often targets Asian Americans, who tend to be overrepresented in higher education and some professions.
Cigna’s training materials support books that promote critical race theory. The company recommends that employees read Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, Ibram X. Kendi’s How To Be An Anti-Racist, and two books from accused leftist terrorist Angela Davis — who was arrested in 1970 on kidnapping and murder charges.
The Cigna “My University” portal offers several lessons on alleged systemic racism in American society. The curriculum cites The New York Times‘ “1619 Project,” including the claim that “America was not yet America [in 1619], but this was the moment it began.”
The 1619 Project twists American history to claim that America is systemically racist, matching critical race theory. Last year, the Times stealth-edited the project’s online portal, removing the claim that the project “aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” Many historians had torn apart the 1619 Project’s claims — even the 1619 date does not represent the first time slaves set foot in what would become the United States, for instance — but the project continues to enjoy prominence.
The 1619 Project also arguably helped inspire the violent riots over the summer of 2020 that killed at least 26 people. When vandals toppled a statue of George Washington in Portland, they spray-painted “1619” on the statue. When Claremont’s Charles Kesler wrote in The New York Post, “Call them the 1619 riots,” 1619 Project Founder Nikole Hannah-Jones responded (in a since-deleted tweet) that “it would be an honor” to claim responsibility for the destructive riots.
Yet Cigna has apparently gone all-in on the Black Lives Matter narrative. In fact, one company memo referred to George Floyd’s death as a “senseless murder” and announced that Black Lives Matter attire will be acceptable in the workplace.
“As part of our culture of inclusion, we believe employees should bring their whole selves to work, and we embrace causes that align with our values,” the announcement read. “That’s why we’ve recently updated our Dress for Your Day policy to reflect that Black Lives Matter apparel is permitted at work.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) condemned Cigna’s corporate culture in comments to the Examiner.
“This woke ideology is infecting every part of our economy and our culture, and it only serves to divide Americans into smaller and smaller groups and then pit those groups against each other,” Rubio declared. “You have to wonder how a corporate culture so consumed by dividing Americans can effectively serve our nation and its people. It is grotesque and un-American.”
Cigna’s statement to PJ Media suggested that the company does not use racial quotas in hiring, but the spokesperson did not make that denial explicit. Instead, the spokesperson used lefty buzzwords like “equity” and “empathy.” This duplicity suggests a desire to cater to both sides of the issue. Cigna is unlikely to satisfy conservatives, however, given the egregious bias in the company’s training materials.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.