Declaring “a major victory,” the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced that Bank of America Corp. (BOA) will pay 1,147 African-American job applicants $2,181,593 in back wages and interest for race-based hiring discrimination.
Here are some details about the BOA case and other backpay/discrimination lawsuits that sound a warning to all employers to take extra care to avoid discrimination and a reminder about the tenacity of federal agencies.
Suit Began in 1993
The ruling in the BOA case awards $964,033 to 1,034 applicants who were rejected for jobs in 1993 and $1,217,560 to 113 individuals who were rejected between 2002 and 2005. It further orders Bank of America to extend job offers, with appropriate seniority, to 10 class members as positions become available.
After hearing from experts on both sides, the judge agreed with the government’s positions on every issue in dispute. Notably, she rejected the bank’s arguments for a lower award on the grounds that they could not take advantage of missing records that they had failed to keep.
In an earlier ruling, the judge determined that the bank applied unfair and inconsistent selection criteria resulting in the rejection of qualified African-American applicants for teller and entry-level clerical and administrative positions at the company’s Charlotte facility.
Case Spanned Nearly Two Decades
“The ruling represents a major victory in a case that has spanned nearly two decades, during which Bank of America repeatedly challenged the authority of the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs,” says the DOL.
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Where Doors Are Closed, OFCCP Will Open Them
“Wherever doors of opportunity are unfairly closed to workers, we will be there to open them—no matter how long it takes,” said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu. “[This] 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.”
On November 24, 1993, the OFCCP initiated a routine compliance review that revealed indications of systemic hiring discrimination affecting African-American job seekers at the Charlotte facility. After conciliation efforts failed, the Solicitor of Labor in 1997 filed an administrative complaint against the company for violating Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating in employment practices on the basis of race.
"Our investigators and attorneys prevailed despite decades of stalling tactics," said Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith. "This case demonstrates that the department will not be deterred in our pursuit of justice for job seekers."
BOA may be regretting its decision to continue to fight this battle, especially because we’re guessing that over the 20 years this case went on, the lawyers’ fees and other costs and distractions have added substantially to the total costs BOA has sustained.
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Here’s another recent case:
Medtronic to pay $290,000 to Settle Wage Discrimination Lawsuit
The OFCCP has resolved claims of pay discrimination affecting 78 Hispanic workers employed at the Medtronic Interventional Vascular, Inc., manufacturing facility in Danvers, Massachusetts. Medtronic will pay the affected workers $290,000 in back wages and interest for pay disparities dating back to April 2008.
In court filings, the OFCCP alleged that Medtronic, a federal contractor, discriminated against 78 entry-level Hispanic senior production associates by paying them less than their white counterparts, in violation of Executive Order 11246.
“Because pay discrimination is often hidden from workers, OFCCP’s enforcement in this area is essential,” said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu.
Without more details about the case, it’s unfair to blame the compensation and HR people at the company, but we can surely say that for your company, a routine audit should uncover problems like this one so you can take action before the OFCCP (or your employee’s lawyer) takes action.
In tomorrow’s CED, more instructional cases.
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