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US Senators Introduce Bill To Expand Civil Rights Protections for Financial Services' Customers

Oct. 22, 2020

Yesterday, Democratic Senators introduced legislation in the US Senate designed to provide protection against discrimination by financial institutions. As reported by the New York Times, this bill is designed to close an existing loophole in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. "The Fair Access to Financial Services Act, [was] introduced on Wednesday by members of the Senate Banking Committee"

The bill stipulates that “all persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges and accommodations of financial institutions.” It is sponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tina Smith of Minnesota, Cory Booker and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Currently, Federal legislation prohibits discrimination in the workplace as well as certain types of businesses who provide services to the public, i.e. public accommodations. For decades now, the financial sector was left off of the delineated list and industries and businesses which are included in the anti-discrimination legislation. Because of this, many courts have read Congress' intent as being to exclude banks from discrimination liability with respect to a bank's interaction with customers.

This loophole is closed off in those states which have anti-discrimination laws, many of which may be written more broadly. That said, many states simply chose to have their legislation mirror the Civil Rights Act. Other states don't even have anti-discrimination laws in place. Missouri currently prohibits a bank from denying a real estate related loan to any one because of their Race, Color, Religion, Sex, National Original, Ancestry, Disability or Familial Status.

Currently, a House version is planned to be introduced as well. Should both bills pass their respective chambers, then the legislation will be sent to a Conference Committee whose purpose will be to agree on a unified version of the bill for presentment to both chambers in the form of a Conference Report. Assuming the Conference Report passes both the US Senate and the US House of Representatives, then the bill will be presented to the President for his signature.

If you believe that you have been discriminated in the workplace or as a bank customer applying for a home loan, then contact Anthony Bretz immediately. You may be running out of time to file a Charge of Discrimination and fight for your rights!