Justice Cynthia S. Kern of the New York Supreme Court dismissed a Complaint filed by three (3) former female trainees, Julia Kuo, Sandra Hudson and Catherine Wharton, against Bank of America/Merrill Lynch (“Merrill Lynch”) claiming that they were terminated based upon sexual discrimination. According to Justice Kern’s Decision and Order, the females were employed by BOA/ML starting in 2008 and participated in one of Merrill Lynch’s two training programs, the Practice Management Development Program or the Paths of Achievement Program (which was the predecessor to the Practice Management Development Program), until they were terminated on January 26, 2009. According to their Complaint, the female trainees allege that they were supervised by Joe Mattia, who provided each of the females with a copy of a book entitled, “Seducing the Boys Club.” Further, the female trainees also alleged that Mr. Mattia required the trainees to attend a talk with the book’s author at the BOA/ML Fifth Avenue branch office, during which the author “encouraged women to stroke men’s egos with flattery and manipulation in order to succeed in a male-dominated environment, such as Merrill Lynch.” The Complaint further asserted that after the market downturn in the fall of 2008, and the acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America, Mr. Mattia was replaced by a new Branch Manager. On January 26, 2009, the new branch manager laid off thirteen (13) trainees, including all of the female trainees, but retained fourteen (14) male trainees who were not meeting their performance goals. Although Judge Kern acknowledged that the talk at the branch office with the author of “Seducing the Boys Club” was “validly assailed as inappropriate,” she ultimately dismissed the case and accepted BOA/ML’s defense that the trainees continually failed to meet their achievement and performance goals. Indeed, Judge Kern’s nineteen (19) page decision stated, “It is undisputed that a computer, and not a Merrill Lynch employee, targeted Ms. Wharton and other underperforming trainees for termination and that the computer did so based on statistical performance metrics.”
Lax & Neville has extensive experience in successfully prosecuting claims in court and in arbitration on behalf of employees who are victims of discriminatory conduct and a hostile work environment. Additionally, Lax & Neville LLP has nationally represented small broker-dealers, financial services professionals and securities industry companies in regulatory matters and securities-related and commercial litigation. Please contact our team of attorneys for a consultation at (212) 696-1999.