Merrill vet sues company for religious discrimination

Former managing director claims he was subject to anti-Mormon comments, which firm allegedly did nothing about; Merrill denies charges

May 13, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

By Darla Mercado

An ex-managing director at Merrill Lynch has filed suit against the firm and his immediate boss, alleging that he had been discriminated against for being a Mormon.

Brent C. Arave on Wednesday filed suit in California Superior Court in Riverside against Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith Inc., its parent Bank of America Corp., his former boss, Joseph Holsinger, and Bank of America human resources manager Kathy Anderson, plus a slate of unnamed defendants.

Going back to 1998 or 1999, Mr. Arave said, he was responsible for bringing in new recruits from his alma mater, Brigham Young University — the Provo, Utah-based school that's affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In the complaint, Mr. Arave said that while four Merrill regional directors had praised him for the new recruits he had brought into the firm, over the course of the last 15 years, only about 5% of all of the firm's employees were from BYU.

Mr. Arave claims that in an August Merrill Lynch employee survey, in which workers were not required to use their names, some employees made discriminatory comments that claimed the firm was hiring too many Mormon recruits and that accused Mr. Arave of “preaching” the church's doctrine at work.

“These vicious and prejudiced comments appear, even to an untrained eye, to be from one or two antagonistic and bigoted employees who utilized the anonymous survey to attack [Mr. Arave] because of his religious beliefs and practices,” the former managing director said in his complaint.

Mr. Arave claims that his boss and Ms. Anderson, the human resources manager, ignored his complaints about the religious comments.

In March, after Mr. Arave complained to BAML about Mr. Holsinger and Ms. Anderson, alleging religious discrimination and retaliation, the firm allegedly violated its own policies and disclosed the complaint to Mr. Arave's boss and the human resource manager, according to the suit.

Mr. Arave, who worked for Merrill for 25 years, left the firm near the end of March. He then filed a discrimination charge with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, according to the complaint.

In his suit, he accuses Merrill of religious discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination. Mr. Arave is also demanding unpaid wages and payment for unused vacation time. He's also suing for undisclosed punitive damages, damages for pain and suffering and the costs of bringing the suit, as well as attorney's fees.

"We were surprised and disappointed by Mr. Arave's claims and his decision to voluntarily leave the company," said Bill Halldin, a spokesman for BAML. "We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind."

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