A complaint has been filed in federal court alleging Richard Cordray and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau engaged in discriminatory practices against female and racial-minority employees of the agency.
The complaint, filed Sept. 13 in D.C. District Court, seeks class-action status for all affected employees. It alleges violations of the 1866 Civil Rights Act, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1963 Equal Pay Act. The lawsuit is seeking punitive damages and compensation for lost wages and benefits for minorities and women who have worked as consumer response specialists at CFPB.
Cordray was CFPB’s first director, serving for six years, the first five years under former President Obama, who has endorsed Cordray’s campaign for governor of Ohio. Cordray, a Democrat, is running against Republican and current Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
DeWine pilloried Cordray about his “failed” tenure at CFPB during a gubernatorial debate Wednesday night in Dayton.
“Richard mentioned something about the consumer group he worked for during the time he worked [under President Obama],” DeWine said during the debate. “Inspectors found 25 percent of women and minorities felt they were discriminated against, and you did nothing, just like you did nothing about the opioid crisis and the rape kit [backlog] crisis.”
Cordray has long been the subject of discrimination complaints from CFPB employees dating back to at least 2013. They claim he did nothing to improve a workplace atmosphere described by a 2015 Inspector General’s report as “toxic” and “retaliatory” against women, blacks and other minorities.
According to a Sept. 19 report by the National Law Review: the new class-action complaint accuses the CFPB under Cordray and current CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney of discriminatory practices.
The allegations are based on the fact that women and minorities received lesser pay and fewer promotions than their white-male counterparts based on biased evaluations.
It also alleges that women suffered from an “agency-wide pattern and practice of discrimination and retaliation,” while Cordray was at the helm.
The Ohio Star last month reported in depth on the poisonous atmosphere at CFPB under Cordray.
The complaint cites the Office of the Inspector General report and a U.S. House of Representatives investigation that both found “significant issues with widespread disparities negatively impacting racial minority and female employees with regard to performance ratings, pay, promotion and related areas” at the CFPB under Cordray’s leadership.
“Richard Cordray failed his CFPB employees as a Washington D.C. bureaucrat. He can’t be trusted to lead Ohio forward,” said the Republican Governors’ Association in an email alert issued Thursday.
The plaintiffs contend that while the CFPB is tasked with providing justice to American consumers, its top managers have failed in their responsibility to their own employees.
“This action seeks class-wide injunctive relief to end CFPB’s entrenched racial and gender discrimination and retaliation and make-whole relief for class members,” the lawsuit states. A jury trial is requested.
Plaintiffs listed on the suit are Carzanna Jones, a current female employee of CFPB, and Heynard Paz-Chow, a male former employee. They are seeking certification to join in the case a class of racial minority and female employees, both past and present, working in the consumer-response division, whom the plaintiffs allege were subjected to the same discrimination and retaliation while working for the CFPB.
Jones’ allegations cover the length of her career at the bureau dating back to 2012. Paz-Chow worked at the bureau from 2011-2014 and his allegations occurred solely under the leadership of Cordray.
The consumer response division of the bureau is responsible for investigating consumer complaints and determining whether banks or other corporations have violated any laws or regulations.
The pending lawsuit alleges that through an agency-wide pattern and practice of discrimination and retaliation, the CFPB has sought to disparately impact racial minority and female workers despite the continued objections of CFPB employees. Specifically, it is alleged that the CFPB instituted discriminatory policies and procedures in its training, assigning, evaluating, and compensation of minority and female employees.
The complaint details specific instances of discrimination and retaliation alleged to have been suffered by the named plaintiffs including:
- Denial of training and promotion opportunities
- Unequal assignment of investigations leading to disproportionate case closings which impact employee evaluations
- Denial of transfer requests
- Pay disparities
- Failure to abide by the requirements of the ADA and FMLA
- Retaliatory actions after employees complained about inequalities
Read the entire complaint here.
“The evidence that there was widespread discrimination against minority and female workers at the CFPB under Richard Cordray’s watch is significant,” said Mandi Merritt, spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, in an email to The Star. “This failure of leadership is unbecoming and unacceptable for Ohio’s next governor.”
The allegations in the complaint stretch back to 2011 and address statistical studies and congressional reports that have highlighted inequality at the CFPB under two directors.
The complaint cites a congressional investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives initiated in 2014 and continued into 2015 along with an Office of Inspector General (OIG) report from 2015.
Both investigations found widespread disparities impacting racial minority and female employees with regard to performance ratings, pay, promotion and related areas. During a hearing of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, a CFPB attorney testified that the white males in authority at the bureau “gave themselves the best performance evaluations to garner better raises and bonuses.”
In 2016, the U.S. Government Accountability Office also found that 25 percent of female, black, and Asian employees were discriminated against under Cordray’s watch, and that work was needed to ensure the CFPB was a fair and inclusive workplace.
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Anthony Accardi is a writer and reporter for The Ohio Star.