Vanguard Fights Two Race, Age Discrimination Suits

Ignites.com—Beagan Wilcox Volz
05.15.2013

Two African American women — one a current employee at Vanguard and one who says she was fired in 2011 — have brought separate lawsuits against the firm in recent months alleging discrimination.

Both women claim Vanguard discriminated against them on the basis of race and age. One of the plaintiffs also alleges sexual discrimination.

In the past five years, Vanguard has settled three discrimination suits, two with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the firm’s alleged racial discrimination against African Americans and one with a former employee who claimed age discrimination.

The three suits were resolved without Vanguard's admitting any liability.

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Iris Henry-Aiken filed suit May 10 in Pennsylvania federal court, alleging that Vanguard targeted her for “unnecessary criticism and discipline,” passed her over for promotions on multiple occasions and did not give her periodic raises in line with other employees because of her age and race.

Henry-Aiken, 60, says in the complaint that she was hired as a brokerage associate in 1996.

“[T]here is a culture of racial and age bias” at Vanguard’s Malvern, Pa., office, Henry-Aiken claims in the lawsuit, which also alleges retaliation for her complaints about race and age discrimination.

James Bell, a partner at law firm Bell & Bell, says his client, Henry-Aiken, is still employed by Vanguard. The lawsuit claims that Henry-Aiken has performed her duties in a “satisfactory and professional manner.”

Henry-Aiken seeks damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and other relief. Damages would include payment for lost wages, while punitive damages would be imposed by the court to punish the firm for its actions and function as a deterrent.

Carol Freeman-Parker, currently 46, alleges in a March 27 complaint that Vanguard fired her based on age, race and sex. She was hired in 1999 as a processing associate and her employment ended on Nov. 8, 2011, according to the complaint.

The firm replaced Freeman-Parker with a “younger, less experienced and less qualified male,” the plaintiff claims. The replacement was not African American, according to the complaint.

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Vanguard settled a lawsuit in 2011 that was filed against the firm in Arizona federal court by a former employee over alleged age discrimination. Leon Binder claimed that the company used its forced-ranking employee evaluation system as a pretext to terminate him. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

In 2008 and 2010, the firm settled lawsuits brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the firm’s alleged racial discrimination against African Americans, Ignites has reported. The claims were settled for $500,000 and $300,000, respectively.

As part of the 2008 settlement with the EEOC, Vanguard agreed to establish a complaint procedure for violations of company policies and discrimination and retaliation. The firm also agreed to provide anti-discrimination training to managers, supervisors and human resources employees.

Henry-Aiken cites the previous lawsuits in her complaint.

“Indeed, in Vanguard’s Malvern office, the opportunities for African-American employees are so limited that, after a series of African-American employees who had been fired filed lawsuits claiming racial discrimination, Vanguard set up the ‘Black Professionals Network’ in part as an acknowledgment of its discriminatory practices and differential treatment of African-Americans,” the complaint states.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the two recent cases against Vanguard will likely ask for discovery, or the exchange of information between the parties, regarding the previous lawsuits and settlements, says Carmelyn Malalis, partner at Outten & Golden.

Information regarding the same type of discrimination in previous lawsuits could be considered by the court as evidence of discriminatory motive, or could be relevant for showing a pattern or practice of discrimination for purposes of the current lawsuits, says Malalis.
 
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