Labor & Employment Law

Merrill Lynch reportedly agrees to $160M settlement in bias case

Merrill Lynch has agreed to pay $160 million to settle racial bias claims by 700 African-American brokers who alleged unequal treatment impeded their careers at the brokerage, according to a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

The settlement is the largest amount ever distributed to plaintiffs in a racial discrimination suit against an American employer, the New York Times reports at its DealBook blog. The newspaper received news of the preliminary settlement from plaintiffs’ lawyer Linda Friedman of Chicago. A Merrill Lynch spokesman did not confirm the settlement amount but said the brokerage is “working toward a very positive resolution” of the lawsuit.

The Connecticut Employment Law Blog cites two larger settlements of $176 million and $192.5 million in discrimination cases against Texaco and Coca-Cola. Friedman told the Times that the amount of settlement money available to employees will be larger than in those cases.

The Merrill Lynch plaintiffs had claimed they received little help from managers and were ostracized by co-workers, according to the Times account. The case “wound through the federal courts for eight years, including two appeals to the United States Supreme Court,” the newspaper says. The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to certify the class and a trial had been scheduled for January.

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