Merrill Lynch settles US race discrimination case
Merrill Lynch settled a racial discrimination lawsuit yesterday for $160m (£103.1m), one of the largest sums ever paid in a discrimination suit. The lawsuit was filed back in 2005 and could affect as many as 1,200 employees in the US.
The suit was first filed by George McReynolds, who worked at the bank for 30 years. Mr McReynolds was joined by 16 other former and current African-American Merrill Lynch employees as part of the suit, although the settlement payout could apply to thousands more workers at the firm.
Mr McReynolds, said the compay had a segregated workforce, including policies that steered black brokers into clerical positions and reassigned their accounts to white workers. If African-American workers did become brokers, were not offered much in terms of support.
At the time the suit was filed, only 2% of Merrill Lynch's employees were African-American, despite an agreement the brokerage had signed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to increase that percentage to 6.5%.
"It has been a long journey and our clients have persevered through quite a bit of adversity," Suzanne Bish, one of the plaintiff's lawyers, said "We're hopeful now that the case has been resolved that there will be meaningful reform and a real difference in terms of opportunities for African-Americans."
Ms Bish said the significance of the settlement coming on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's March on Washington was not lost on her clients. "They wouldn't be brokers on Wall Street without the efforts of people who struggled before them and they're excited to continue the struggle," she said.
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