BofA Accused of Gender Discrimination

Bank of America (BofA) was sued Thursday in Manhattan federal court by four female advisers and trainees; former employees of Merrill Lynch.  

The women said they were let go by the largest U.S. bank because of gender discrimination. According to the complaint, each was told “the economy” was the reason for their dismissals on Jan. 26, 2009. However, the women cited several instances of being treated differently and being deprived of work because they were female. On the same day they were let go, Merrill Lynch laid off 13 of 27 trainees in its Fifth Avenue office, including all seven female trainees, the complaint said. 

One example provided by the plaintiffs describes how a Merrill supervisor gave female financial advisers and trainees the book “Seducing the Boys Club,” by a senior McCann Erickson executive, whose message suggests that women should “stroke men’s egos with flattery and manipulation in order to succeed in a male dominated environment” was found “highly offensive” by three of the plaintiffs. 

In another, one plaintiff was allegedly assigned to answer phones for a vacationing colleague and was told the supervisor “feels more comfortable with girls answering the phone. You understand, right?” The plaintiff said her time spent doing this kept her from building a client base. 

The lawsuit alleges violations of federal, state, and city laws. It seeks to stop alleged improper employment practices, compensation for lost wages and other benefits, punitive damages, and other remedies. Bank of America spokesman Bill Halldin said the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company is reviewing the complaint, Reuters reported. 

BofA and Merrill Lynch have faced several gender discrimination suits in the past few years.  One from this past March (see “Merrill Advisers Sue for Gender Discrimination“), and another in June 2009 (see “BofA Broker Files Gender Bias Complaint“).