LOS ANGELES– Bank of America illegally denies employment to qualified applicants based on their immigration status even though they are authorized to work in the United States, a lawsuit filed in federal court today charged.
MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and the law firm Elliot Morgan Parsonage PLLC of Winston-Salem, N.C., filed the suit on behalf of Daniel Marques, a 27-year-old native of Brazil who is a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Marques is authorized to work by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but he was abruptly disqualified from consideration for a job with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, a division of Bank of America, after he informed the company of his DACA grant, the lawsuit states.
Bank of America is accused of violating the federal Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits intentional discrimination based on alienage.
“Any company, like Bank of America, with a significant Latino customer base and that seeks to build further business with the growing Latino community, would do well to avoid policies or practices that discriminate, irrationally, on the basis of immigration status,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel.
Marques submitted an application in March 2016 through Bank of America’s online job application portal for a position in New Jersey as a Practice Management Development Associate within the financial advisor program of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. He received an email soon thereafter from Bank of America’s vice president, executive recruiter for the mid-Atlantic market to schedule a March 30 telephone interview. The vice president informed Marques during the interview that as a non-citizen applicant, he was required to be eligible to work in the United States “without limitations.”
After the phone interview, the executive recruiter sent Marques an email the same day saying she would recommend further interviews. Marques responded with a request for further clarification of her statement that he would need work authorization “without limitations,” and attached a copy of his valid Employment Authorization Document, which is renewable every two years under DACA.
On April 4, 2016, the executive called Marques to say that he was disqualified from further consideration for the job because he is a DACA recipient. Marques sent follow-up emails seeking more specific information, but he did not receive any responses.
“We are determined to vindicate the full rights afforded to immigrants with federal work authorization,” said Burth López, MALDEF staff attorney and counsel in the case. “Companies may not pick and choose among work-authorized job applicants based on the applicants’ immigration status.”
The lawsuit seeks class -action status on behalf of all non-citizens who were authorized to work in the United States, including other holders of deferred action, refugees, and visa holders, and who were denied employment by Bank of America after April 4, 2016 because of their immigration status.
“Elliot Morgan Parsonage PLLC is looking forward to working with MALDEF to fight employment discrimination against young people with DACA,” said co-counsel Helen L. Parsonage.
The lawsuit is the third filed by MALDEF in the past year challenging employment policies that discriminate against DACA recipients. Last July, MALDEF and co-counsel Outten & Golden LLP sued consumer product giant Procter & Gamble on behalf of a former college student who had been denied a paid internship based on his DACA status.
The case is Daniel Marques v. Bank of America Corporation, Case No. 3:18-cv-00228, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division.