Bank of America Corp. was sued Thursday in Manhattan federal court by four female financial advisers and trainees who accused the largest U.S. bank of mistreating and firing them because of their gender.
The women said they were let go fewer than four weeks after Bank of America bought their former employer Merrill Lynch & Co. and after instances in which they had been deprived of work or treated differently because they were women.
According to the complaint, each was told “the economy” was the reason for their dismissals on Jan. 26, 2009. On the same day, Merrill laid off 13 of 27 trainees in its Fifth Avenue office, including all seven female trainees, it said.
Bank of America spokesman Bill Halldin said the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company is reviewing the complaint. He added the bank “actively promotes an environment where all associates have the opportunity to succeed.”
The plaintiffs’ law firm had no immediate comment.
Large banks and brokerages are regularly the target of U.S. lawsuits alleging discrimination.
According to the complaint a Merrill supervisor in one case gave female financial advisers and trainees the book “Seducing the Boys Club,” by a senior McCann Erickson executive, whose message was found “highly offensive” by three 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.
The case is Vuona et al v. Merrill Lynch & Co et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 10-06529.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Andre Grenon)
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