RALEIGH, N.C. >> Bank of America settled a decades-old case that accused its predecessor company of systematically discriminating against black applicants for entry-level jobs in Charlotte, the U.S. Labor Department said today.
The largest U.S. consumer bank settled the 1993 case against its Charlotte-based predecessor NationsBank by agreeing that 1,027 people who applied for clerical, teller and administrative positions a generation ago would share $1 million in back wages and interest, the department said.
Bank of America’s penalty roughly corresponds to what a Labor Department review board last year determined it should pay, according to court documents. The bank challenged the decision in federal court before reaching the settlement. A district court judge delayed that case until Bank of America fully complies with the settlement.
“Although much time and effort has gone into this case by all parties, the department is pleased that the matter has been resolved,” Thomas Dowd, the agency’s acting director for federal contract compliance programs, said in a statement.
NationsBank merged with San Francisco-based Bank of America in 1998.
Bank of America did not respond to emailed questions about why it fought the case for so long or why it settled now. The bank said in a statement: “We remain committed to fair hiring practices. While we continue to disagree with the Department of Labor’s analyses, we are pleased to have resolved this nearly-25-year-old matter.”
The dispute began during the first year of former President Bill Clinton’s administration, when the department decided to check whether NationsBank was living up to its legal requirement for doing business with the federal government to not discriminate in employment because of race, color, religion or other conditions.
Labor Department inspectors found a disparity in the percentage of minority applicants compared with white applicants.
The Labor Department filed an administrative complaint against NationsBank in 1997 seeking to cancel all federal contracts until the bank complied with federal law.
NationsBank countered that the agency violated its constitutional rights by repeatedly targeting the company for audits and said it believed it was illegal to demand race-based quotas in the company’s hiring practices.
The Labor Department said it is looking for some of the affected applicants and is urging black jobseekers who were not hired in 1993 to find more information on its website.