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Bank of America pays $155,000 in settlement of MN discrimination claim

A Minnesota woman with hearing impairment asked for email communication about a loan modification; she said the bank didn’t comply and then denied the loan.

Bank of America has settled a loan discrimination case with a hearing-impaired Minnesota woman for $155,000.

Kathryn Letourneau of North Branch filed a complaint in 2012 with the Human Rights Department claiming that, due to her disability (a hearing impairment), she’d asked Bank of America to communicate with her solely through email on a $140,000 loan modification. At first, the bank complied with the request, but eventually stopped and then denied the loan modification.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights had determined probable cause in the case, finding that “Bank of America’s denial of the loan modification was attributable to Bank of America’s refusal to reasonably accommodate the deaf customer’s request to communicate by email,” the department said.

While denying that it discriminated against Letourneau, Bank of America agreed to pay $145,000; two-thirds to Letourneau and one-third to her attorney, Gilbert Law. Another $10,000 goes to the state’s Dispute Resolution fund.

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The bank also has agreed to change its practices in the future, with staff training in dealing with deaf customers.

Letourneau said in a statement:

“This experience has left me so appreciative of people and organizations that stand for and defend equal rights for people with disabilities, especially when dealing with very personal situations with impersonal parties.”