Bank of America Sued For Race Discrimination

According to a complaint filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, Bank of America is being sued for race discrimination against African-American bankers and brokers. The court papers claim the bank regularly discriminated against said bankers when it came to “work assignments, training and access to clients.” From Reuters:

The plaintiffs, who seek class-action status, said Bank of America had disproportionately “steered” African-Americans bankers and brokers to largely minority or low-net-worth clients.

They said that when they complained, the bank said it believed that “clients are more ‘comfortable’ dealing with sales professionals of their own race,” according to the complaint.

Bank of opportunity, indeed. —MEGHANN MARCO

Bank of America sued for race discrimination [Reuters]
(Photo: Spidra Webster)

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  1. joemono says:

    I’ve never had any problems with BOA (despite hearing all the horror stories here), but I will definitely close my accounts if this turns out to be true.

  2. Wasabe says:

    Is this a class-action suit from the human race?

  3. exkon says:

    Interesting, it seems like the entire bank if being sued, but I’m pretty sure not all their branches are like this.

  4. Sathallrin says:

    Sounds like the plaintiffs are being discriminatory saying that people of their own race are “largely minority or low-net-worth clients”.

  5. saram says:

    This is very interesting to me, as I have found them to be one of the most diversity-focused workplace I have ever experienced. I’m on the other side of the country though, so it may be regional. Exkon is correct, not all of their branches are like this. And their call centers and other corporate (i.e. not direct client contact) areas are really diverse. Lots of women, diverse ethnic backgrounds, and sexual orientations all over the place, up the corporate ladder. I’ll be watching to see how this turns out.

  6. bnuk013 says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with the basic practice of encouraging employees/salespeople to seek out people they have a lot in common with. Just happens that minorities on average make less money, so this ends up hurting the minority employees who work on a commision. An honset mistake.

  7. bnuk013 says:

    Saying it “just happens” is kind of a bad way to put it… to be clear it is that way for a lot of mostly unjust historical reasons.

  8. Greeper says:

    I love it when the news prints press releases from plaintiffs’ attorneys. Are you going to run a huge headline saying “Race Discriminattion Suit Dismissed by Court”????

  9. saram says:

    Yes, folks, this is called institutionalized discrimination and it is still lurking in a few places . . .

  10. badgeman46 says:

    I think if we are going to sue BoA, we should also sue the producers of the local news. Ever notice they send the token asian reporter out to chinatown? Or that the black reporter is the one reporting on race issues? And of course, the hispanic reporter is always reporting on the immigration rallies.

  11. gorckat says:

    @Sathallrin: Sounds like the plaintiffs are being discriminatory saying that people of their own race are “largely minority or low-net-worth clients”.

    Not at all- statistically speaking, minorities make up a disproportionate percentage of lower income households, and earn less than white counterparts.

    If all the black clients are steered to the black broker, then he’s probably gonna earn less on commission, even if he gets a few affluent clients…because they are generally worth less. (My, that reads like a vigorously bigoted statement out of context :p)

  12. MentalDisconnect says:

    Wouldn’t the way to fix this be to encourage people to help those they have things in common with (race, gender, etc.) and not pay on commission? I’m not sure if this is intentional discrimination or not. I certainly know I’d feel more comfortable working with someone like me- young (20-26), and being Jewish and non-white would help, too. Is this discrimination or BoA making a misguided effort to make the black clients more comfortable? Racism is a complicated thing, because it’s often not concious, being ingrained in our minds…

  13. Coder4Life says:

    I think they are worried more about the low net worth rather than dealing with their own race.

    But thats actually a good idea because it will generate the company more profit..

  14. erica.blog says:

    I don’t tend to judge my banker or broker’s competence on whether he/she looks like me. I judge on whether they seem attentive to my needs, can readily answer questions, are willing to explain “obvious” things if I don’t understand, and so on. I’ve gotten bad treatment from young white females (like me) just as often as from older non-white males, and good treatment from the old guys as often as from the young gals. But I also will admit, being white I don’t have much personal experience with racial discrimination, so I don’t know how the average person’s comfort level might be affected by race.

    Whatever BoA’s motivations for the policy were are pretty murky, and likely to be hotly debated both in the court case and in the public eye.

  15. RandomHookup says:

    I, for one, prefer to talk about my investments with a hot chick, which is pretty much the polar opposite of me.

  16. SOhp101 says:

    I think some of you guys need to read the article. It states that the Black bankers and brokers are suing BOA because everyone that is a minority is being directed towards them.

    When they ask to work with white people, they often get the response ‘well the customers we send you are probably more comfortable working with you.’ This likely results in lower commissions and more difficult sales goals, which means that their job is a lot harder for them than for others. I would have to agree with them on this one.

  17. mbrutsch says:

    I’ve got to side with BoA on this one (and I despise BoA). I informally polled a few of my ethnic co-workers, and they all agreed that they are more comfortable interacting with people of their own ethnic background when dealing with the bank. They felt that they were getting more honest answers, less corporate BS, and a couple even insisted that they got better loan rates when dealing with “their own people”. I’m fairly certain that they didn’t get any better rates/treatment/service than they would have from someone else, but it’s their *perception* of better treatment that seems relevant. I think, in this limited circumstance, BoA was doing the right thing *for the customer*. Frankly, it’s the plaintiffs who seem discriminatory in this instance; they just don’t want to have to deal with “those people” that they have worked so hard to rise above. (And the lower commissions don’t help!)

  18. FMulder says:

    Why assume that BoA’s actions are about making black clients happy — perhaps it is only about making white staff feel comfortable with their racist tendencies?

    It seems that perhaps they want to be able to work with all clients, rather than have it decided they are supposed to work only with people of their own race. Believe it or not, there are black people who are educated, intelligent, well-mannered, friendly, have good jobs and good income (and there are white people who don’t have all or any of these qualities) — so perhaps the BoA employees simply want to feel they are full-fledged employees and not just a way for white BoA employees to avoid working with people with whom THEY don’t feel comfortable.

    Why claim the onus is on black people who don’t want to talk people not of their race? Perhaps the perception is for the white BoA staff that these clients are not ‘good enough.’ I can easily imagine that both the black BoA staff and clients, getting subpar treatment because BoA decides that their existence is necessary to deal with each other, but they aren’t really considered equal to either white clients and staff.

    I can also imagine that when a black person with a high-income comes into the bank, they may not be sent to the black BoA staff. Because they are a ‘special case’ — i.e. have enough money to stave off racism in this case.

    Not raised with the racist mindset, tendencies, behaviors, attitudes, that many seem to take as normal, I’ve found that I have no problem dealing with anyone who is pleasant and knowledgeable. I definitely appreciate a situation where I see people of color in professional positions, because society is still fighting the drench of racism permeating so many environments. However, it shouldn’t be assumed that black clients are the ones uncomfortable talking with people of other ethnicities and races.

  19. Tonguetied says:

    So how many times have we heard complaints in the media about “white bankers don’t understand the way things are in the xyz community. We need bankers that know what it’s like to be xyz.” Now a bank is being sued because they are doing what they’ve been told for years to do…

    Damned if they do, damned if they don’t…

  20. daisymae says:

    Well people…I work for BOA and I am a client manager and first, WE DONT get a comission. Second, yes we have racist managers. Third, yes we have market managers who make sure that their “people” have the best clients and raises and offices.

    They really need to get a hold of who they are hiring especially if they come from other financial institutions where this is practiced. IT IS HAPPENING….and it is so sad.

  21. Anonymous says:

    my husband worked for bank of America and was discriminated against to a point where he was not allowed to take his sick days while having a note from a doctor and then got written up. He was not able to take personal days and he observed her being nice only to the white customers and the black customers she treated like they weren’t important. His manager did this for three years and he now works for another company! They should have screened the manager on Capital Blvd before hiring her, Racist.