GEICO, one of the nation’s largest insurance companies, announced Thursday that it is laying off 2,000 people nationwide — 6% of its workforce. The cuts include at least 22 of the 3,000 employees at its Lakeland office on Pipkin Road.
A memo from GEICO Chairman, President and CEO Todd Combs blamed inflation, supply-chain issues and rising medical costs.
“Levels of inflation that we haven’t seen in decades, delays in parts or labor shortages extending time to repair, rising medical costs, and other factors have caused our loss costs and combined ratio to increase, alongside the entire industry,” Combs wrote in a memo emailed to employees Thursday morning as the layoffs began.
The layoffs, he said, would allow GEICO “to better position ourselves for long-term profitability and growth .. (and) allow us to become more dynamic, agile, and streamline our processes while still serving our customers … This very difficult decision was not taken lightly. We recognize we’re saying goodbye to beloved colleagues and friends, and as a leadership team we are committed to supporting those affected in the days ahead.”
Combs said the company will offer career transition assistance, including individual career coaching sessions, assistance with resume updates, on-demand interviewing and networking resources, and tips to enhance former employees’ social media presence. It will also allow employees to maintain access to Workday, the company’s in-house website, so those affected may apply for other open jobs at GEICO. Existing benefits, including health insurance, will be provided during the notice period.
GEICO (Government Employees Insurance Company) is the third-largest auto insurer in the U.S. It was founded in 1936 and insures more than 27 million vehicles in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Homeowners, renters, condo, flood, identity theft, term life, and more coverage is written through non-affiliated insurance companies and are secured through the GEICO Insurance Agency, LLC.
GEICO is a member of the Berkshire Hathaway family of companies and employs more than 38,000 associates countrywide in more than a dozen offices. The city and county offered incentives for the company to expand in Lakeland.
Lakeland employee: ‘It’s still such a shocker’
Danielle Johnson, 45, was laid off as a claims coverage underwriter in the Lakeland office after nearly 26 years. The 1996 Lakeland High School graduate said she was told she would receive one week of pay for every year she worked beyond 15 years – so she is entitled to at least 10 weeks of severance pay. Her work anniversary to reach the 26-year mark would have been in February. She posted her job situation on her Facebook page Thursday morning.
“After almost 26 years with the (gecko emoji), my time has come to an end,” she wrote, adding a broken heart emoji. “I love all my GEICO family near and far. The friendships that are now family. I pray for anyone else that gets the call or did. We are not defined on how this company has changed and became.”
In an interview with LkldNow, she said she started work at 7 a.m. Thursday morning. Combs’ email came through at about 8:30 and then her phone rang at 9:43 — someone she didn’t know and had never met was calling from Virginia to let her know her job was being eliminated.
“Honestly, I was shaking — I’m not going to lie,” Johnson said, adding that she was trying to take notes on everything he was saying. “I asked him to repeat everything — what was the rhyme or reason for me being chosen? He said there was no rhyme or reason, it was a decision made overall. I think that’s just what they were told to say.”
Johnson said there was a family atmosphere at the company for decades. She said she spent more time with the people in her office than with her own family at home. They saw her through her marriage, the birth of her daughter, who is now a senior in high school, and then her divorce. They used to have family fun days often, including outings and picnics. The Lakeland office was its own region because the laws and rules here are very specific.
But in the last 18 months, she said restructuring and cutbacks took away that atmosphere. Her boss was no longer in the building, but in Buffalo, New York.
“After August, they’ve been doing layoffs, but it’s been IT, marketing — where we had too much and we needed to cut back,” Johnson said, adding she never thought it would be her.
She said the company came up with numbers goals and made employees in divisions compete against each other.
“The last 18 months has been like walking on eggshells,” she said. “You don’t know where or when you’re going to get this phone call or email. I was told people were on vacation or their day off and they were getting phone calls that they were let go.”
She said in addition to claims, she was also a GEICO corporate representative in court cases, participating in depositions and trials.
“I wore many hats over the years,” she said. “I was a notary for the company. I was getting stuff this morning to notarize right before. That tells you nobody knew I was on the chopping block.”
She said she spoke with her boss early this morning and was told that her numbers looked great and she was doing well. And then the phone call came.
She said she isn’t sure what she was going to do — she has worked in insurance since she was 20 years old.
“Is there a possibility, if I go to another insurance company and then this happens again?” she asked. “I’m going to explore and just sit. I 100% need to take this all in. It’s still such a shocker. We call it our ‘GEICO family.’ Like wow.”
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