As an employer, it wasn’t exactly the bank for all of America.
Bank of America was ordered Monday to pay 1,147 African American job applicants $2,181,593 in back wages and interest after a judge found that the company’s Charlotte office had racially discriminated against them.
Judge Linda S. Chapman ruled that the bank used “unfair and inconsistent selection criteria” when it routinely chose white applicants over black job-seekers in 1993 and again between 2002 and 2005.
In 1993, the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs launched a review of the bank that turned up evidence of “systemic hiring discrimination” against African Americans, denying them entry-level clerical and administrative positions.
Bank of America vigorously contested the allegations and argued that the Labor Department did not have the legal authority to impose fines against it, but the judge sided with the government’s claim that because the bank is a federally insured entity, it qualifies as a federal contractor.
The ruling was a long-awaited victory for the Labor Department, which had first brought the case to court in 1997.
“Wherever doors of opportunity are unfairly closed to workers, we will be there to open them — no matter how long it takes,” OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu said in a statement. “Judge Chapman’s decision upholds the legal principle of making victims of discrimination whole, and these workers deserve to get the full measure of what is owed to them.”
The bank must now pay $964,033 to 1,034 applicants who were rejected for jobs in 1993, and another $1,217,560 to 113 African Americans who were denied work between 2002 and 2005. In addition, Bank of America has been ordered offer jobs to 10 applicants who were originally turned down.
The bank, meanwhile, refused to comment on the specifics of the ruling.
“At Bank of America, diversity and inclusion are part of our culture and core company values,” Christopher Feeney, a spokesman for the bank, said in a statement. “We actively promote an environment where all employees have the opportunity to succeed.”