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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Personal Account: EEOC Finds Discrimination at Merrill Lynch

"How can we trust you? You may read Quran and get ideas?"

That is what I was told in one occasion by my manager at Merrill Lynch co. where I worked for more than 3 years!

Merrill Lynch is the largest brokerage firm in America. An investment bank and a fortune 100 company with billions of dollars in profits each year. They have also a long track record of discrimination against African Americans, women, etc. (Google "Merrill Lynch + discrimination" for a long list of law suits and class actions some currently pending). The company employs roughly 50,000 employees out of which only 50 or so have Ph.D degrees. I was one of those with a Ph.D in physics and only one with a middle eastern or Muslim background.

Company is located in down town Manhattan a block away from ground zero. It's always a novelty to find an Iranian or someone of Muslim heritage on Wall Street even though Odds of that are slightly better than finding them on Mars!

If you ever try to get a foot in Wall street you would know that it's a mission impossible specially if you are an Iranian. It's just not meant for us. It's for few elites who have the "goods". You know! Anyhow, They were looking for some highly qualified applicant well versed in a quantitative/scientific discipline and after interviewing a couple of hundreds of candidates they didn't like, I showed up. More than 6 hours of grueling interviews and tens of questions (Math, Finance, Computer Science, Statistics, etc) later I was chosen. People who interviewed me were Ph.D graduates of Columbia, NYU, Cornell & Moscow university etc.

It was not until a year or so later that I demanded equal pay and promotion that discrimination and harassment surged. Beyond the time to time greetings of "terrorist", "risk factor" etc there were discriminatory actions that defies imagination. I was physically isolated from rest of my colleagues. While all my colleagues with PhD degrees (those who interviewed me) were sitting on 5th floor of world financial center I was forced to sit in isolation on a different floor next to IT support personnel and this other fellow who was a programmer with a high school degree! As a matter of fact from the three people who were sitting next to me none was a full time employee as me and none had a degree higher than college. Even though I was doing every bit of duty of a quantitative Analyst/Vice president I was isolated physically not to come in contact with my tiers (New era segregation!).

In one occasion one of my colleagues tried to explain to me this odd arrangement. He said: "Majid, you are from a country with a high risk factor. That's why you are not allowed on the trading floor"!

Trading floor is the heart of action (No, no one jumps up and down yelling. It's just that big players and decision makers are there). Here I was, a highly educated, cultured intellectual in this country with a PhD in physics and a Masters in Mathematical finance and I had to sit in some secluded corner because of my nationality and perceived religion. If you think that is shameful and discriminatory wait for the rest of the story.

Once a managing director of the firm shared his wisdom with everyone in the group and said: "If we ever have to fire someone among traders and analysts, who is it going to be? I think traders are so many like Palestinians so there is no problem losing some of them on the other hand analysts are few like Israelis, we can not afford losing them."

That statement is not just discriminatory that is plain hate speech. He has admitted saying that during Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation. EEOC is a government agency who is tasked by enforcing the civil rights act in US.

The harassment and discrimination continued till the point that I started pushing back and demand equal treatment and fair salary. Finally they decided to get rid of me. Despite the fact that the company was on a hiring spree at the time and added a net of few thousands to its work force they got rid of me under pretext of "Reduction in force".

Remember the guy who was sitting next to me with a high school degree? He was chosen over me to stay because they decided he has a better grasp of Financial mathematics than yours truly. No the guy is no math prodigy. He is a temp employee/consultant, an experienced programmer who nonetheless has a hard time even handling high school algebra! After they got rid of me they moved him to 5th floor to sit next to my colleagues who all have Ph.D degrees in math and physics! This is all happening in 21st century America folks! No doubt an opportunity land but for who?! You may find it relevant to know he is of Jewish descend and the manger who discovered his talent happens to be an Israeli national! OOPS!The statements I quoted above belong to other managers not him! Hum...!

After my lay off I filed a complaint with EEOC and they found Merrill Lynch guilty of discrimination against me. EEOC letter signed by the New York City director reads:

"Based on the analysis (of evidence), I have found that respondent subjected charging party to discrimination based on his race and religion and retaliated against him." (Part of the EEOC letter is attached I have eliminated the identities for legal concerns).

EEOC usually rejects 95% of discrimination claims as without merit. They also file a law suit on behalf of the plaintiff only in less than 1% of the cases. Despite the clear statement by EEOC as to blatant and vicious nature of this discrimination eight months ago I am still waiting for them to take the next step and file a law suit in federal court!

To call this discrimination is a misuse of English language. This is a hate crime and a downright attempt to eliminate elite elements of a race and religion and replace them by those who have racial, political and religious affinity with them. It is the people at these positions who are going to command influence and power in the society and by eliminating the elite of one race those who perpetrate these acts consciously and methodically intend to foster an environment that guarantees their domination for generations to come.

It would be a colossal mistake to treat this as an isolated case of unintentional lapse in judgment. This case has all the hallmarks of a concerted effort to systematically insure the future of one race at the expense of another. [Email from Mr Borumand]

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