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Bank of America settles brokerage sex discrimination lawsuit

The issue of disparity in pay between the sexes has made the news in a variety of contexts in recent years. Wage disputes can come in a variety of forms. Often, an employer may fail to pay overtime to workers regardless of gender or other discriminatory purposes. And aggrieved workers who are kept on the clock without lawful pay may have a claim.

But income disparities among workers may give rise to an employment discrimination law claim, under laws that protect the civil rights of workers. If an employer sets different pay rates based upon a person’s gender or race, for instance, the practice could serve as the basis of a discrimination lawsuit. In the past two weeks, Merrill Lynch (and its current owner Bank of America) settled two discrimination lawsuits that involve aspects of income and opportunity disparities based upon race and gender.

The lawsuits involved the issue of a lack of business or advancement opportunities that also translated into claims of disparate pay.

Last month, Merrill Lynch settled a class-action race discrimination lawsuit brought on behalf of African-American brokers with the firm who say that they were not given the same opportunities as white brokers.

In 2008 after the financial meltdown, Bank of America bought out Merrill Lynch and folded the brokerage into the banking company as an investments division in 2009. Female brokers with BOA investments filed a lawsuit alleging that women were not allowed to participate in teams with the most income potential. Women who had worked with Merrill Lynch before the acquisition were included in the sex discrimination lawsuit.

About ten days after Merrill Lynch settled the race bias lawsuit, BOA settled the sex discrimination lawsuit. Each of the class-action lawsuits include damages for aggrieved brokers who suffered from the alleged discrimination. The settlements also include provisions to promote diversity in the workplace. BOA denies wrongdoing in the settlements.

Discrimination in the workplace can come in many different forms. Anti-discrimination laws apply at every step of the employment process, from hiring to promotions--to firing decisions and everything in between. Disparate treatment based upon discriminatory practices or policies may serve as the basis for a New York employment law claim.

Source: Washington Post, “Bank of America, Merrill Lynch to pay $39 million in gender bias settlement,” The Associated Press, Sept. 06, 2013

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