Black Ex-Merrill Lynch Banker Claims Race Bias

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By Patrick Dorrian

Sept. 1 — Merrill Lynch managers and human resources personnel in Indiana refused to investigate a black employee’s repeated complaints of race bias and instead disciplined him unfairly, forcing him to quit, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court ( George v. Bank of Am. , S.D. Ind., No. 1:16-cv-02349, complaint filed 9/1/16 ).

Cornelius George alleges he was constructively discharged from his position as a Merrill wealth management banker after complaining that managers set more difficult performance goals for him than for his white co-workers.

In response to his repeated complaints of race discrimination, he was issued an unjust written warning for bogus performance deficiencies, he says in a complaint filed Sept. 1 against Bank of America, doing business as Merrill Lynch.

Despite his pleas that the company at least look into his allegations that he was being singled out and treated differently because he is black, Merrill Lynch refused to investigate and instead issued him a second performance warning, George asserts.

George sued in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, asserting claims for racial harassment and retaliation under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and race discrimination under Title VII and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (42 U.S.C. § 1981).

‘Placed Under Microscope.'

The end result of his complaints was that he was “placed under a microscope by management,” George asserts. In addition to getting written warnings, he was also put on a performance improvement plan, he says.

“Similarly situated non African-American employees whose performance and actual sales numbers were worse than Plaintiff’s did not receive similar discipline,” according to the complaint.

Moreover, the second written warning was issued even though George’s sales numbers improved after the first warning, the lawsuit alleges.

George complained to Merrill Lynch that a manager was repeatedly berating him and wanted to remove him from his position because he is black, he alleges. He was also denied promotions based on his race, he says.

A second manager allegedly told George he didn’t want to hear the accusations of mistreatment and that he was tired of “battling” with George.

The atmosphere of discrimination, retaliation and harassment became so intolerable, George says, that he had no choice but to resign.

Merrill Lynch declined Bloomberg BNA's Sept. request for comment.

John H. Haskin & Associates represents George. No attorney has filed an appearance yet for Bank of America or Merrill Lynch.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at

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