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Bank settles gender discrimination suit for $39 million

 The country's largest bank has agreed to a substantial settlement in a class action gender discrimination lawsuit. The settlement will distribute $39 million to women who worked for Merrill Lynch or Bank of America during a specific period of time.

The settlement may be divided by as many as 4,800 current and former employees of the both banks who worked in brokerage operations. When one accepts a portion of a class action settlement, they also forgo their right to sue on the same issue in the future. As a result, some employees who may be eligible for a portion of the settlement might choose to forgo it if they wish to pursue an individual claim against the bank. 

This is hardly the first incident of discrimination allegations at the bank. In fact, this is the third major gender discrimination class action lawsuit faced by Merril Lynch in recent decades. In the 1970s a group of employees brought a lawsuit over the bank's treatment of both women and minorities and the bank made an agreement as a part of the settlement for that case to change their processes to eliminate the bias.

The goal to make their workforce more diverse was not met and in the 1990s the bank faced another large-scale suit from a group of 900 women. After that case the bank also agreed to take steps to improve the standing of female brokers and to offer equal pay. The 2007 EEOC complaint that evolved into the present lawsuit and settlement suggest that the goal was once again not met.

In each case employees have pointed out the ways in which Wall Street brokerage houses discriminate on a large scale against women and minorities, making it harder to succeed and paying them less. An attorney working for the employees in this case said that she believes the settlement agreement will help push the bank to make real changes.

Source: The New York Times, "Bank of America to Pay $39 Million in Gender Bias Case," Patrick McGeehan, Sept. 6, 2013

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