Banking

BofA agrees to pay $4.2M over alleged discrimination against minority applicants

A security guard makes his rounds at the Bank of America Branch at Tryon and Trade streets on uptown Charlotte.
A security guard makes his rounds at the Bank of America Branch at Tryon and Trade streets on uptown Charlotte. File photo

Bank of America has agreed to pay $4.2 million in back wages and interest after the U.S. Department of Labor found “alleged hiring discrimination” against minority job applicants, the Labor Department announced Friday.

Routine compliance evaluations by the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs alleged that the Charlotte-based bank discriminated against black, Latino and female applicants seeking phone representative, mortgage underwriter, sales specialist and other positions.

The practices allegedly occurred at Bank of America locations in New Jersey, Florida, Georgia and Texas. The settlement agreement is “one of the largest settlements” in the compliance program’s history, said director Craig E. Leen.

“This result will further the goal of equal employment opportunity,” Leen said in a statement.

In a statement, Bank of America spokesperson Bill Halldin said that the bank disputes the 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 the 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.”

In some instances, for example, Halldin said “the bank hired significantly more women than men for a particular position, but the Labor Department believed even more women should have been hired.”

This is the latest settlement related to alleged discriminatory practices for the bank.

In 2017, the Department of Labor announced that Bank of America would pay $1 million in back wages to more than 1,000 black job applicants in a 24-year-old case related to the bank’s Charlotte predecessor, NationsBank.

That came after a 1993 Labor Department review that concluded that there were “systemic” hiring violations against black applicants for entry-level jobs in NationsBank’s Charlotte office.

In 1998, Charlotte’s NationsBank merged with San Francisco’s BankAmerica.

Other banks have faced similar claims over discrimination from the Department of Labor office, which regulates firms that do business with the federal government to ensure compliance with nondiscrimination laws.

In 2004, Charlotte-based Wachovia, which later merged with Wells Fargo, agreed to pay $5.5 million over allegations that it discriminated against 2,021 current and former female employees.

JPMorgan Chase & Co was hit with a lawsuit from the same Department of Labor office in 2017, alleging that it “systematically discriminated” against women in certain positions by paying them less than their male counterparts.

Bank of America will monitor its hiring practices across the country as part of the most recent settlement, the Labor Department said.

Applicants who think they may be eligible for back pay or job opportunities are encouraged to visit dol.gov/ofccp/CML.

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