Three black former employees of UBS Financial Services Inc. accused the brokerage firm in a lawsuit Tuesday of racial discrimination in its hiring and promotions, saying even the company’s attempts at diversity mocked non-whites.
The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan sought class-action status, saying that segregation and discrimination in job assignments and compensation were widespread.
It said it was filed on behalf of all blacks who were, are, or will be employed as brokers, non-broker officers and other professional positions.
It asked that the company should be prohibited from continuing to engage in the alleged practices and that it adopt policies and practices to ensure discriminatory practices end.
The lawsuit also sought back pay and other unspecified damages for the class and three named plaintiffs — Freddie H. Cook, Sylvester L. Flaming Jr. and Timothy J. Gandy.
Christine Walton, a UBS spokeswoman, said the company had not yet seen the lawsuit.
“UBS believes a diverse workplace is a critical component to success. UBS promotes a nondiscriminatory work environment in which the rights of all employees are respected,” she said.
According to the lawsuit, UBS as of March 2002 had a workforce of 8,615 brokers but only 1.2 percent were black.
“This incredibly low percentage of African Americans has not significantly changed since March 2002,” the lawsuit said.
As of March 2002, the number of non-broker officers at UBS stood at 1,728, only 3.1 percent of which were black, the lawsuit alleged.
No black has ever held the positions of executive vice president or senior vice president and never more than a token number of blacks have been managing directors, first vice presidents, corporate vice presidents and vice presidents, it added.
The lawsuit said the pattern of discrimination at UBS “reflects its stereotypical orientation that African-Americans can only sell financial products to other African-Americans, and, conversely, that Caucasian customers will not trust African-Americans to invest their money wisely.”
The lawsuit said the attitude “illegally resulted in the creation of two racially segregated offices in New York and Maryland” when the company opened a branch office in Flushing, Queens in 1998 to serve an Asian population and in 2000 opened a branch in Largo, Md., to serve a black population.
The company’s management frequently ridiculed the Largo branch office and its staff, referring to it as a “diversity” office, the lawsuit said.
Both offices were eventually closed, the lawsuit said.