BofA Merrill Lynch Faces Religious Bias Suit

A former Merrill Lynch branch manager has accused the firm of discriminating against him for being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Reuters reported that Brent Arave claims his boss told him “to change his LDS-like behavioral traits” if he wanted to keep working at the firm. According to a lawsuit filed with the California Superior Court in Riverside, the 25-year Merrill veteran said that for over a decade, he was encouraged by his bosses to recruit trainee advisers from his alma mater, Brigham Young University, which is affiliated with the LDS church. 

In August 2010, the firm conducted an anonymous employee survey, results of which included complaints that Merrill Lynch employed too many members of the LDS church and accused Arave of “preaching” LDS doctrine at work, according to Reuters. Following the survey, Arave said he was denied a request to transfer to another office, and that his boss demanded that he make a public apology to the advisers he managed for “creating an environment of favoritism to his personal religious beliefs.” 

Arave said he submitted a formal complaint to the firm against his boss, Joseph Holsinger, and Katherine Anderson, a human resources manager who he accuses of ignoring his allegations about religious discrimination. The news report notes that Arave alleges the firm improperly informed the employees of his complaint, after which his work environment became so intolerable he was forced to leave. 

Arave is seeking unspecified damages on seven counts, including religious discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination, Reuters said.