Bank Of America To Pay $155K To Settle Claim It Discriminated Against Hearing-Impaired Customer

Financial institutions have a somewhat checkered past when it comes to accommodating consumers with hearing disabilities. There was Citibank’s demand that a hearing-impaired customer call them to clear up a suspicious transaction only to be hung up on repeatedly or there was the Chase rep that didn’t think deaf people could have credit cards. Now this week, Bank of America agreed to settle allegations it denied a loan modification after ignoring a customer’s request that the bank email her rather than force her to talk on the phone.

KSTP-TV reports that Bank of America will pay $155,000 to settle claims it discriminated against a hearing-impaired Minnesota woman due to her disability.

The complaint, filed with the Minnesota Human Rights Department, stems from a 2012 incident in which the woman asked the bank to communicate with her about a $140,000 loan modification solely through email.

The woman tell KSTP that because she has suffered from severe hearing loss since birth, phone conversations weren’t an option when working with the bank.

“Especially when you’re dealing with important information like your financing, I don’t want to be doing the, ‘What did you say?’ ‘I couldn’t hear that. Could you say that again?'” the woman says.

At first the bank complied with the request, but it eventually stopped correspondence and denied the modification.

“I sent him emails— ‘Did you get my fax? Are you getting my emails?’ Nothing,” the woman tells KSTP. “And then, all of a sudden, I got a letter saying they denied me for my modification because they didn’t have all of the information they needed from me.”

The woman says her husband reached out to the bank for clarification on the denial. A representative for the bank said a supervisor instructed him not to email the woman because it wasn’t in the bank’s policy.

According to the Minnesota Human Rights Department, the denial of the loan modification was attributable to the bank’s refusal to reasonably accommodate the woman’s request for email communications. The Minnesota Human Rights Act prohibits businesses that offer credit and loans from discriminating against customers who have a disability.

The woman and her family ultimately received a loan modification that allowed them to keep their home.

Under the settlement, Bank of America – which doesn’t admit wrongdoing – must provide $155,000 in payments to the woman, her attorney and the state.

Additionally, the company must provide training to its staff regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and to always make email an option for the hearing-impaired.

A spokesperson for Bank of America says the company does not discriminate and complies with ADA.

“We provide equal access to company facilities, services, and employment opportunities and treat all employees with disabilities with dignity and respect and offer the same access to opportunities afforded those without disabilities,” the spokesperson says.

Bank Of America Pays $155K To Settle Minn. Woman’s Discrimination Claim [KSTP-TV]