Bank of America has agreed to pay a deaf customer $155,000 this week to settle claims it discriminated against her based on her disability when it denied her home loan request.
Kathryn Letourneau, who lives in remote North Branch, Minnesota, told 5 Eyewitness News she was applying for a $140,000 loan modification when the Bank of America refused to communicate with her via email.
"Without my hearing aids, I can hear the presence of sound. I can hear loud noises. I can hear some loud speech sound. But I could never tell you what it is. Especially when you're dealing with important information like your financing, I don't want to be doing the, 'What did you say?' 'I couldn't hear that. Could you say that again?'"The Minnesota Department of Human Rights said Bank of America refused to reasonably accommodate Letourneau's disabilities after her complaint in 2012. She said Bank of America had been communicating with her via email at first, but then suddenly stopped.
When the woman's loan request was denied, her husband called Bank of America and was told it was against their policy to communicate via email. The family did eventually receive the loan modification.
In settling the lawsuit, Bank of America has admitted to no wrongdoing in the case, although the bank did say it had concerns about communicating such sensitive material via the Internet.
Bank of America has also agreed to make email an option for the hearing impaired and provide additional training for its staff, according to Consumerist.
Letourneau told HometownSource she was grateful for organizations that fight for rights for disabled people.
"The Minnesota Department of Human Rights, along with Heather Gilbert, reinforced the fact that I, a person with a hearing loss, had every right to ask for accommodations that allow me to manage my obligations independently, and be an independent home owner, for that, I am deeply grateful."A Bank of America spokesperson said the bank complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other anti-discrimination laws.
"We provide equal access to company facilities, services, and employment opportunities and treat all employees with disabilities with dignity and respect and offer the same access to opportunities afforded those without disabilities," said the spokesperson.
This isn't the first case of discrimination leveled against Bank of America. In fact, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency lowered the banks community lending rating from outstanding to satisfactory in November of 2014. The agency cited three examples of discriminatory or illegal practices, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Bank of America was also forced to pay an elderly couple $1 million in Dec. of 2014 after a judge decided the bank had harassed them with debt collection calls, according to the Inquisitr.