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African American brokers settle race discrimination suit

In today's society, people may find it hard to believe that racial discrimination still occurs. Unfortunately, race discrimination occurs in many different areas of life including in the workplace. New York workers who face racial discrimination should know that employee laws are on their side when their employers aren't.

In a recent New York case, a settlement agreement has been reached between Merrill Lynch and a group of 700 black company brokers. This legal dispute has been going on since 2005 when only one in 75 brokers in the whole firm was black. Almost all of these African American brokers were considered poor producers, yet received little help from managers. Almost none of these black brokers were allowed to create teams or be team leaders in order to increase sales despite the fact that other white brokers had such arrangements.

The suit has raged on for eight years and has made its way through the federal courts. The brokers received class certification last year by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. A trial had been set for January 2014, but will no longer be necessary.

While many of the terms of the settlement have not been released, the settlement is supposedly for $160 million. Any black broker or trainees that have worked for Merrill since 2001 will be eligible to share in this settlement -- some estimate that this could be as many as 1,200 people.

Every New York employee has the right to go to work without facing discrimination based on that person's race, religion, national origin or gender. When employees participate in wrongful workplace discrimination, compensation may be available. Like in the Merrill Lynch case, workers can be compensated when they are not hired, not promoted or otherwise left out solely because of their race.

Source: The New York Times, "Merrill Lynch in Big Payout for Bias Case," Patrick Mcgeehan, Aug. 27, 2013

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