WASHINGTON -- As the industry consolidates and employees are laid off, banks are likely to face more lawsuits alleging age and race discrimination.
First Union Corp. was hit with such a suit last week.
The suit, filed in U.S. district court here, arises from the firing of 123 employees after First Union acquired First American Bank last June.
That takeover involved a major employee cutback that the plaintiffs claim was discriminatory.
"The bank selectively terminated old and black employees with a goal to develop a younger, white, lower-paid workplace," said Jane Lang, the plaintiffs' attorney, who is managing partner of the D.C.-based firm Sprenger & Lang.
Ms. Lang said the $70.8 billion-asset bank violated several Civil rights laws, a federal age discrimination act, and the D.C. Human Rights Act. She also said that First Union has not made good on its promise to give priority to fired employees as vacancies come up. None of the former-workers have been offered a new job, according to Ms. Lang,
The lawsuit calls for the bank to adopt permanent employment practices that comply with federal and District of Columbia law. It also asks for the employees to be reinstated and and compensated for lost pay.
Vice Presidents All White
The plaintiffs include 105 people over 40 years old when they were terminated, 45 blacks, and six people who alleged national-origin discrimination.
Ms. Lang said when the ease goes to trial, she expects First Union to claim it simply had to reduce its work force. But, she said, 31 of the bank's 32 vice presidents are white males, and the other is a white female.
"They've displayed quite a degree of arrogance," Ms. Lang said. "It's hard to say they're in touch with their work force."
Ms. Lang, who specializes in large class actions, said the case against First Union will probably take two years to go tO trial.
A spokesperson for First Union declined to comment on the lawsuit. First Union is the nation's ninth-largest holding company, with more than 32,000 employees. It also has the third-largest bank branch network, with more than 1,300 offices.