Race-Based Hiring Bias Costs Bank of America $2.2 Million

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

September 25, 2013

Bank of America has been ordered to pay nearly $2.2 million in back wages and interest to more than 1,100 black job applicants who were passed over for jobs at the company's Charlotte facility over several years.

US Department of Labor Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Linda S. Chapman found the nation's second-largest bank used "unfair and inconsistent selection criteria" in regularly bypassing qualified black candidates in favor white job seekers. In addition to the monetary award, the judge also ordered Bank of America to extend job offers, with appropriate seniority, to 10 of the class members in the case as openings become available.

In the decision, the judge rebuffed the bank's argument for a lower damages award, saying an employer cannot take advantage of missing records it had failed to keep. The jobs at issue involved bank teller positions as well as entry-level clerical and administrative posts.

The case came before the ALJ because Bank of America is a federally-insured financial institution, making it a federal contractor subject to the regulatory requirements of the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The OFCCP mandates that employers doing business with the federal government not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, disability or protected veteran status. The matter stemmed from a routine OFCCP compliance review that the Department of Labor said revealed systemic hiring discrimination on the basis of race.

In a statement applauding the decision, OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu said, "Wherever doors of opportunity are unfairly closed to workers, we will be there to open them - no matter how long it takes."

While Bank of America did not comment on the ruling, a company spokesman said in a statement following the decision, "Diversity and inclusion are part of our culture and core company values. We actively promote an environment where all employees have the opportunity to succeed."