Merrill Lynch was hit by yet another discrimination suit yesterday. This time the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces laws regarding workplace discrimination, is heading the complaint on behalf of former employee Majid Borumand, a Muslim from Iran.
Merrill Lynch spokesperson, Mark Herr, said in a statement, “We regret the EEOC believes there are grounds for its filing. Mr. Borumand claims that he was treated improperly because of his national origins or faith. We respectfully—but strongly—disagree with the EEOC and deny Mr. Borumand's allegations.”
Borumand, who says he was a quantitative analyst (the firm disputes that description) whose degrees include a Ph.D. in theoretical physics and a Masters degree in mathematical finance, was allegedly subject to negative remarks regarding his national origin and religion. He was told, “The reason you are not allowed on the trading floor is because you are from a country which has a high risk factor and a threat,” according to the complaint that was filed in the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York.
Merrill denies the charges and says Borumand did not work on the brokerage side of the firm and was not an analyst at the firm. Rather, “He was a senior programmer in a unit that supported a unit on the global markets side of the house.”
While it’s the first time the EEOC has filed a discrimination suit against Merrill, the EEOC has filed and settled discrimination cases against other major Wall Street firms. In 2001, the agency filed suit against Morgan Stanley and three years later settled with the firm for $54 million on behalf of former bond saleswoman, Allison Schieffelin. (Click here to read more on that.)Employees who feel they have been discriminated in the workplace must first file a complaint with the EEOC before filing a court complaint. The agency investigates and attempts to resolve the issue through mediation. If that fails the agency will issue the employee a “right to sue” notice which means the case can be taken to court. Stephen Whinston, with law firm Berger & Montague in Philadelphia, says, “If the [EEOC] decides it’s an important enough issue then it will take the case on itself.” The agency’s decision to head the case may also have to do with the vast size of the Merrill and the large pool of employees that may be affected by the alleged discrimination, Whinston says.