Former bank employees in New York sue over alleged discrimination

Claimants allege racial harassment was prevalent, impacted compensation and advancement

NEW YORK (Reuters) — Two separate lawsuits alleging racial discrimination were filed in federal court in New York, against Bank of America and investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald.

Jack Mitchell, who is black and worked as a manager at Bank of America from February 2007 to July 2008, alleges the bank maintained an "apartheid" system of business allocation, believing white clients would not want to be served by African American employees.

Under this system, Mitchell alleges, employees such as himself were routinely assigned to branches in low-income black communities, negatively affecting his compensation. Mitchell claims he was fired in retaliation for complaining about "the bank's racist practices."

Bank of America spokesman Bill Halldin declined to comment on the suit but said that "diversity and inclusion are part of Bank of America's culture and core values."

Mitchell is seeking damages of not less than US$10 million.

Jermaine James, a black employee of Cantor Fitzgerald from October 2004 to July 2008, filed a suit alleging pervasive racial harassment condoned by the bank's management. He claims colleagues made "monkey noises" in his presence and that one co-worker said he would be "enjoying his weekend where there won't be any niggers."

According to the complaint, when James protested that discrimination was preventing his advancement at the bank, his manager told him he needed to transfer office locations in order to "be around his own people." When James asked what he meant, the manager responded, "black people."

A spokesperson for Cantor Fitzgerald was not immediately available for comment.

James claims he too was fired for raising the allegations and is asking to be rehired. He is also seeking back pay, bonuses, and punitive damages.

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