Lawyers are trying to organize a class-action suit on behalf of female employees who say a large health insurer is creating a work environment that is hostile to female employees.

David Sanford, Kristen Walsh and Catharine Edwards of Sanford Wittels & Heisler L.L.P., Washington, are filing a suit against CIGNA Healthcare Inc., Philadelphia, in a U.S. District Court in Massachusetts on behalf of Bretta Karp, a provider contracting manager who works for CIGNA in Massachusetts, according to Sanford Wittels.

Karp hopes to be the representative for one class of women who have worked for CIGNA in Massachusetts and would assert violations of state antidiscrimination laws, and also for a second class of women who have worked for CIGNA throughout the country. The women in the second class would assert violations of federal antidiscrimination laws, according to a copy of the complaint provided by Sanford Wittels.

Karp has worked for CIGNA as a contract manager since 1997, and she has been the provider contracting manager for the company in Massachusetts and Rhode Island since 2010. She asserts in the complaint that gender discrimination at CIGNA prevented her from advancing into higher and better paying positions. She says her salary level was downgraded in 2004 without explanation while male employees with her same qualifications were put in a higher level salary band.

Karp is seeking $100 million in compensatory, nominal and punitive damages on behalf of herself and members of both of the classes she wants to represent.

Karp filed state and federal discrimination complaints in September 2010 and received a notice of her right to sue Feb. 22, according to the complaint.

CIGNA has just received the complaint and is reviewing it, the company says in a statement.

“We are committed to diversity and equal opportunity; our workplace policies expressly prohibit discrimination in any form and we intend to fully defend against the complaint,” the company says.