Tag Archive | "discrimination"

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Bank of America Ordered to Pay Black Job Applicants $2.2 Million

A United States Department of Labor Administrative Law Judge has ordered Bank of America to pay $2.2 million in back wages to more than 1,100 African Americans who were rejected for jobs. The ruling ends a nearly two-decades old legal dispute.

Judge Linda S. Chapman ordered the Charlotte-based megabank to pay $964,033 to 1,034 applicants who were rejected for jobs in 1993. Bank officials also were ordered to pay approximately $1.3 million to individuals who were rejected for jobs between 2002 and 2008.

Judge Chapman issued her ruling after determining that bank officials applied unfair and inconsistent selection criteria resulting in the rejection of African Americans for jobs as tellers, entry-level clerical and administrative positions.

Bank officials also repeatedly challenged the authority of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency regulates of BofA, a national bank based in Charlotte, N.C.

Read the rest at The NorthStar News

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Law Firm Honored for Fighting Discrimination

HARTFORD — With recent news of the Supreme Court’s ruling that makes it harder for employees to sue their employer for job discrimination, one local law firm highlights the fact that all kinds of discrimination are practiced in Connecticut.

McCarter & English recently received the “George J. and Patricia K. Ritter Pro Bono Award” created by the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, a small, statewide civil rights law firm based in Hartford. CFHC provides legal representation and assistance for people who are victims of housing discrimination.  Partner Moy Ogilvie and associates Cullen Guilmartin and Jordan Abbott were recognized on June 13 for their work with the CFHC at its 5th Annual Loving Civil Rights Award Dinner which was held at The Bond Ballroom.

Earlier this year, the attorneys, in conjunction with the CFHC, successfully resolved a housing discrimination case that they began litigating in early 2011.  The case involved an elderly gentleman who was discriminated against by a landlord for indicating during the application process that he would be paying for his rent using a Section 8 voucher.  A settlement was reached in which the firm’s client received one of the largest amounts that a victim of source of income discrimination in Connecticut has ever collected.  The client is scheduled to move into his apartment later this fall.

“Housing discrimination deeply impacts individuals, families, neighborhoods and even entire cities,” said Moy Ogilvie, who worked on the matter and is a member of the firm’s Diversity Committee.  “As residents of this community, we have a continued responsibility to help those individuals at risk of being unlawfully denied basic opportunities such as renting or purchasing a home.  McCarter & English appreciates this honor and looks forward to continuing our work with the CFHC.”

McCarter’s Pro Bono Director, Emily Goldberg, added:  “Source of income discrimination against Section 8 voucher recipients is a rampant issue throughout the country.  We are very proud of the work this team did in vindicating our client’s rights.”

The Ritter Pro Bono Award is named for two long-time Hartford residents who were active in local politics and served as community activist, particularly around housing issues for poor and working families.  The award honors the generous pro bono work of the law firms that help CFHC with difficult legal cases.


“McCarter & English has been a key supporter of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center,” said CFHC Executive Director Erin Kemple.  “We truly appreciate their continued commitment to the Center, to fair housing, and to the individuals and families who benefit directly from their generous assistance.”


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Transit Case Raises Question: Can the Poor Ever Find Justice?

A recent decision handed down by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals raises this important question: Can victims of contemporary forms of discrimination and disparity find justice in our courts?

The court ruling came in the case of Sylvia Darensburg, an African-American mother of three who lives in East Oakland. Every day, along with tens of thousands of low-income African-American, Asian and Latino bus riders in the Bay Area, Sylvia experiences the reality of transit inequality.

According to the case, Darensburg v. Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Sylvia relies on the AC Transit bus system as her primary means of transportation to her job during the day and to college classes at night. She endures long waits for the two buses she needs to take, with each trip taking an hour or more each way. On her way home at night, she has to walk 12 blocks from the nearest bus stop in her neighborhood.

Sylvia is not alone in making such an arduous journey—almost 80 percent of AC Transit riders are people of color, and over 70 percent have incomes below $30,000. Nearly 60 percent are entirely dependent on public transit.

In 2005, a group of law firms and nonprofit legal advocacy groups—claiming state and federal civil rights violations—filed suit in federal court in the hopes of getting Sylvia Darensburg and others like her equal access to quality transit services.

The suit charged that the Metropolitan Transit Commission’s (MTC) practice of persistently under-funding AC Transit, while investing in improving rail services, amounted to discrimination and had a disproportionate impact on low-income residents of color. Rail services are used primarily by individuals with incomes of more than $30,000 and who have other means of transportation. A greater percentage of white riders use rail services rather than bus services like AC Transit.

The suit asserted that MTC’s decision not to allocate greater funding for bus expansion projects in its Regional Transit Expansion Plan causes, at least in part, the fare hikes, service shortages, and lack of improvement on AC Transit buses that Sylvia and others experience.

In late February, the Ninth Circuit derailed Bay Area low-income residents’ chances of getting improved public transportation services. The court ruled that Sylvia and other plaintiffs had failed to make a showing of discrimination because they failed to demonstrate how MTC’s funding decisions either intentionally discriminated against or had a disparate impact on them.

One of the judges went even further by decrying the fact that the lawsuit was brought in the first place.
Taking aim at what he described as “hopelessly outdated” racial categories, he concluded: “[I]n the Bay Area . . . social change has been fostered by liberal political attitudes, and a culture of tolerance. An individual bigot may be found, perhaps even a pocket of racists. The notion of a Bay Area board bent on racist goals is a specter that only desperate litigation could entertain.”

Both the court’s decision and that particular judge’s concurrence ignore or fail to take into account how discrimination actually takes place in our society today. While we may no longer have George Wallace or his ilk chanting “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” on the school house steps, we do have well-documented and persistent racial disparities in virtually every measure of societal well-being, from employment, health, and education to wealth, housing and encounters with the criminal justice system.

Research shows that, today, the majority of racial bias is structural or implicit. Structural or institutional racism refers to any system of inequality based on race. In America, it defines who has access to goods, services and opportunities—or, as in the Darensburg case, to quality transit services that can determine whether one can get to work or school.

By requiring that discrimination be intentional and explicit (an almost impossible high bar), courts no longer provide a meaningful remedy to victims of discrimination and bias. The end result is that countless valid claims are lost, dismissed or never even brought.

If we are to solve the persistent disparities that remain embedded in our society today, judges, lawyers and the public must be better educated about how discrimination plays out in modern society, and in the daily lives of people like Sylvia Darensburg. Only then will we stand a fighting chance of making America a place that can truly live up to its ideal of equal opportunity for everyone.

Eva Paterson and Reggie Shuford are president, and director of law and policy, respectively, at Equal Justice Society.


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