BofA to pay $2.2M to black Charlotte job seekers

Credit: AP

FILE - In this April 21, 2008 file photo, a sign for a Bank of America branch is shown in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)


by ANDREW DUNN / Charlotte Observer

Posted on September 23, 2013 at 8:40 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 24 at 5:00 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bank of America has been ordered to pay $2.2 million to more than 1,000 black job applicants turned down for positions in Charlotte after a federal judge ruled that the bank racially discriminated against them, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Monday.

The Charlotte bank had been accused of rejecting qualified black candidates for teller jobs and entry-level clerical and administrative positions in 1993 and again between 2002 and 2005. An administrative law judge ruled Bank of America used “unfair and inconsistent selection criteria” in choosing white applicants over black job-seekers.

Under the ruling, 1,034 applicants rejected by the bank in 1993 will be awarded $964,033 – an average of $932 per person. An additional 113 people denied a job between 2002 and 2005 will split about $1.2 million – or $10,775 on average.

The bank must also offer jobs to 10 employees originally turned down, the Labor Department said. The department did not say how eligible former applicants will be notified.

The ruling is the latest step in a case that has wound through the legal system since 1997. The department said Bank of America had challenged its authority to pursue the case.

“Wherever doors of opportunity are unfairly closed to workers, we will be there to open them – no matter how long it takes,” said Patricia Shiu, director of the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, in a statement.

Labor Department representatives could not be reached Monday.

Bank of America said it is reviewing the order.

“At Bank of America, diversity and inclusion are part of our culture and core company values,” spokesman Christopher Feeney said in a statement. “We actively promote an environment where all employees have the opportunity to succeed.”

Bank of America can still appeal the judge’s order, the ruling states.

It's not the first time a Charlotte bank has faced discrimination allegations from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. In 2004, Wachovia agreed to pay $5.5 million to settle allegations that it engaged in pay discrimination against 2,021 current and former female employees.

In the Wachovia case, the bank sent notices to affected employees asking them to fill out required paperwork. The bank then sent them checks. The women involved in the case received back pay and interest ranging from $104 to as much as $37,922, according to a Labor Department document.

Decades-long case

The case against Bank of America reaches back to 1993, when it was known as NationsBank. The bank’s Charlotte office was selected for a compliance review under an executive order that requires federal contractors not to discriminate.

The Labor Department later told NationsBank it had found evidence that it had discriminated against black applicants for entry-level jobs, according to department documents.

Soon after, NationsBank challenged the ruling on Fourth Amendment grounds, saying it constituted an illegal search.

In 2010, Administrative Law Judge Linda Chapman recommended a ruling that Bank of America had, in fact, discriminated against the job applicants based on statistical evidence.

Last week, the same judge ordered the $2.2 million payment. In her ruling, the judge said there was no evidence the bank had taken “any action in good faith to prevent illegal behavior.” But she also wrote there was no evidence that discrimination was ongoing, or any “recognizable danger of ongoing violation.”

Two other cases

Bank of America has settled two discrimination-related cases in just the past month.

In August, the bank agreed to pay $160 million to black financial advisers at Merrill Lynch who said racial discrimination led them to be kept off lucrative assignments and paid less than white counterparts. The allegations came from before Bank of America acquired the investment bank in 2009.

Earlier this month, the bank agreed to pay $39 million to women who worked at Bank of America and Merrill Lynch brokerages who claimed they were not given an equal chance to succeed.