Bank of America Repays $4.2 Million in Discrimination Suit

Bank of America has announced it will pay $4.2 million in back wages and interest after the US Department of Labor found the banking company allegedly discriminated against hiring minority applicants.

The Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) alleged the bank, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, discriminated against Black, Latino, and women applicants for positions like phone representative, client service, mortgage underwriter, telephone sales associate, and sales specialist, according to a statement from the Labor Department on September 27.

“This is one of the largest settlements in OFCCP history, and this result will further the goal of equal employment opportunity,” OFCCP Director Craig E. Leen said in the statement.

OFCCP Southeast Regional Director Samuel B. Maiden added, “Federal contractors must comply with equal employment opportunity laws in their hiring and compensation practices.”

The Labor Department described the terms of the settlement, which include the provisions that “Bank of America will monitor its hiring practices nation-wide” and the bank will “retain a consultant to evaluate policies and procedures related to its hiring processes for a five-year period.”

In a statement to The Charlotte Observer, Bank of America spokesperson Bill Halldin said the bank does not accept the validity of the OFCCP’s allegations.

“[We] are confident that our hiring practices were appropriate and reflected Bank of America’s demonstrated record of recruiting a diverse workforce,” he said in a statement. “These reviews occurred between six and 10 years ago in a small number of offices. We decided it was best to put this matter behind us by reaching this resolution.”

Halldin also told the publication, “The bank hired significantly more women than men for a particular position, but the Labor Department believed even more women should have been hired.”

The Labor Departments asks those applicants who believe they are eligible for back pay or job opportunities from the settlement to visit the OFCCP Class Member Locator.

This is not the first settlement Bank of America has reached over discriminating against minority applicants. In 2017, the company settled a 24-year-old case that accused its predecessor, NationsBank, of excluding Black applicants for entry-level positions in Charlotte, the Associated Press previously reported.

The bank settled the 1993 case against NationsBank and agreed to pay $1 million in back wages and interests to 1,027 people who applied for clerical, teller, and administrative positions. NationsBank first merged with Bank of America in 1998.

“Although much time and effort has gone into this case by all parties, the department is pleased that the matter has been resolved,” Thomas Dowd, the agency’s acting director for federal contract compliance programs, said in a statement to the publication.

The Labor Department isn’t the only one keeping a close eye on the banks. In May, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) unveiled a new bill to cap credit card interest rates at 15 percent. The bill, called the Loan Shark Prevention Act, would “combat the predatory lending practices of America’s big banks” and impose a 15 percent federal cap on credit card interest rates.

“The reality is that today’s modern-day loan sharks are no longer lurking on street corners breaking kneecaps to collect their payments,” said Sanders in a previous statement. “They wear three-piece suits and work on Wall Street, where they make hundreds of millions in total compensation and head financial institutions like JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and American Express.”

“Under the legislation we are introducing today, we would establish a national usury rate to make sure that no bank or store in America could charge an interest rate higher than 15 percent,” Sanders continued.

Sanders wrote in a Medium post that credit card companies brought in nearly $180 billion in revenue from interest rates and fees last year. The Vermont senator said by 2019, credit card companies are expected to charge people $122 billion in interest rates in 2019, noting that the companies are “ripping off the middle class.”

“The American people are sick and tired of being ripped off by the same financial institutions that they bailed out ten years ago,” the post by Sanders read. “If we are going to create a financial system that works for all Americans, we have got to stop financial institutions from charging outrageous interest rates and fees.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.