After an 8-year legal battle, Merrill Lynch has finally agreed to settle with over 1,000 African American employees for claims of race bias and race discrimination. The settlement, which totals over $160 million, will be the largest ever race discrimination settlement, so long as it is approved by Robert Gettleman, the Chicago-based federal judge overseeing the case. Gettleman is expected to rule on the settlement in early September.
George McReynolds, one of the principle plaintiffs in the case, has worked for Merrill Lynch for 30 years, but only now believes that justice has been served. McReynolds originally filed suit in 2005. His complaint alleged that the company created a "toxic" culture for African American employees. To support his allegations, McReynolds pointed to the fact that only 2% of the company's financial advisors are African American, and that he is one of only two African Americans based out of his Tennessee office.
In addition to his claims that Merrill Lynch lacks diversity, McReynolds also believes that the company unfairly holds back African Americans. He alleges that black brokers were often prohibited from working with high-profile clients, and that senior company executives publicly badmouthed minority workers. McReynolds believes that this behavior was a result of upper management's reliance on stereotypes when making business decisions.
In addition to the monetary award of the settlement, McReynolds believes that the scrutiny placed on the company will force it to change its discriminatory practices. McReynolds also hopes that this case will set an example to other large Wall Street corporations that race-based discrimination is simply unacceptable.
Source: USA Today, "Merrill Lynch settles discrimination lawsuit," Shelley DuBois, The Tennessean, Aug. 29, 2013