(Bloomberg) -- Brazilian Daniel Marques hoped to parlay his Dreamer work permit into a job with Bank of America Corp. Instead, he’s suing the firm for discrimination.
Marques claims his application to work in the bank’s wealth management department was denied after he told a vice president who interviewed him in 2016 that he’d be required to renew his work authorization under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Bill Halldin, a spokesman for Bank of America, said the company will be reviewing Marques’s claims as the bank “does not have any prohibition on hiring individuals with DACA status.”
The complaint was filed Thursday as a class action by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, which said it seeks to represent other immigrants nationwide with renewable work permits rejected for jobs with the second-largest U.S. bank. Marques has a similar complaint against Allied Wealth Partners, which also rejected him while he was hunting for a job in the spring of 2016. MALDEF separately sued Procter & Gamble Co. on behalf of another Dreamer.
A company’s refusal to hire a candidate because their work authorization papers will ultimately expire “may constitute illegal discrimination,” according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The string of lawsuits comes amid a national debate over immigration that has roiled for months -- in Congress, the courts and the media -- over President Donald Trump’s move to rescind the DACA program, which was started by the Obama administration to protect children of undocumented immigrants from being deported. Companies from a broad range of industries, including technology, finance and retail, have warned Trump that ending the program would have economic and social consequences.
This week, Texas and six other Republican-led states sued the federal government to phase out DACA, with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton blaming the program for issuing work permits to “nearly one million unlawfully present aliens without congressional approval.”
Marques said that when he sought the position at Bank of America, the vice president he met with praised his qualifications, including his 3.4 grade point average at Kean University in New Jersey, where he studied finance. Later, the bank told him it would only consider candidates eligible to work in the U.S. “without limitations,” according to the complaint.
Attorneys at MALDEF say they didn’t know how many other Bank of America job seekers had the same experience as Marques. But they said eligibility for the lawsuit extends to more than 800,000 DACA recipients nationwide, as well as student visa holders, asylum applicants and survivors of human trafficking who have received temporary work permits.
MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas Saenz likened an employer’s decision not to hire someone whose work permit will eventually expire to stereotyped notions of the past about women in the workplace.
“You could imagine a company taking a similar position about women 25 years ago: ‘We just don’t know if she’ll still be in the workforce; she might get pregnant, she might get married. We need long-term stability,’” he said. “That’s discrimination.”
Bank of America’s biggest competitors don’t have specific policies on employment for DACA permit holders, but Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JP Morgan Chase & Co. said they support a legal path to citizenship. Wells Fargo & Co., which has been sued for allegedly discriminating against Dreamers applying for loans, said in a statement that “the protection of DACA immigrants is relevant to our team members and the communities we serve.”
The case is Marques v. Bank of America, 18-cv-0228, U.S. District Court, Western District of North Carolina (Charlotte)
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.