Bank Watch

Bank of America settles discrimination case involving deaf customer

Lender will pay $155,000 after customer asked to be communicated with only by email

Bank of America initially honored a deaf customer’s request to communicate with her solely via email as she sought a mortgage modification, but then stopped honoring it in the months immediately before it denied the modification, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights said.
Bank of America initially honored a deaf customer’s request to communicate with her solely via email as she sought a mortgage modification, but then stopped honoring it in the months immediately before it denied the modification, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights said. AP

Bank of America will pay $155,000 to settle allegations the Charlotte-based bank ignored a deaf customer’s request that it communicate with her solely via email as she sought a mortgage modification she was ultimately denied, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced Monday.

In her complaint with the Department of Human Rights, the customer, Kathryn Letourneau, said she had requested the bank use only email to communicate with her during the modification process, the department said. The bank initially honored her request but then stopped honoring it in the months immediately before it decided to deny the modification, the department said.

The denial of the modification “was attributable to Bank of America’s refusal to reasonably accommodate the deaf customer’s request to communicate by email,” the department said.

“Next year marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. All businesses that serve the public must ensure that they are providing reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities,” Kevin Lindsey, commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, said in a statement.

The settlement resolves a “probable cause finding of discrimination” by the Department of Human Rights, the department said.

Bank of America spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens said in an email that the bank does not discriminate. She also said the bank complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar state laws prohibiting disability discrimination.

It’s not the first discrimination complaint the bank has faced.

The list includes a 2012 settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve claims the bank discriminated against mortgage loan borrowers on the basis of disability and receipt of public assistance. In November, a federal regulator cited that settlement as among other factors in its decision to lower Bank of America’s rating for community lending and investing from "outstanding” to "satisfactory.”

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