Black doctor sues JPMorgan Chase claiming bank denied her service because of her race

Francis Akhalbey February 07, 2022
Dr. Malika Mitchell-Stewart, 34, has filed a lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase -- Photo via ABC13

A 34-year-old Black doctor in Texas has filed a lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase alleging employees at one of the bank’s branches racially discriminated against her by denying her service while she was trying to open an account with a $16,000 check.

According to NBC News, the December 18 incident occurred not too long after Dr. Malika Mitchell-Stewart had finished her residency. The suit, which was filed last Wednesday, stated the check the Black doctor was trying to deposit at the bank’s Sugar Land branch was a signing bonus she had received from her employers Valley Oaks Medical Group.

But while trying to open the account, employees at the bank allegedly accused her of obtaining the check through fraudulent means and raised doubts about her employment as a doctor, the suit stated.

“Dr. Mitchell-Stewart certainly did not expect that when she attempted to open a bank account with Chase and proudly deposit her first check as a new physician she would be accused of fraud and denied the ability to open a bank account at one of the more prominent retail banks in the world,” the suit stated.

“What Dr. Mitchell-Stewart was reminded of on this day was that she is a black woman attempting to deposit $16,000 in a predominantly white affluent suburb. … Solely because of her race, Dr. Mitchell-Stewart was discriminated against by members of Chase’s banking staff and denied services provided to non-African American customers of Chase.”

Responding to the suit in a statement on Thursday, JPMorgan Chase said they had reached out to Dr. Mitchell-Stewart “to better understand what happened and apologize for her experience.”

“We take this matter very seriously and are investigating the situation,” the bank said.

But in a statement on Thursday, Mitchell-Stewart’s attorney, Justin Moore, said the doctor’s experience at the bank was a manifestation of the discrimination Black customers face while banking.

“For a black female physician to be treated this way by Chase is a devastating reminder that no matter how hard we try and how far we climb, major corporations in this country still view us as if we are nothing,” Moore said. “Courageously, Dr. Mitchell-Stewart decided to not let Chase treat her like a criminal because she is black, and is seeking to fight back. … We all should be inspired by her resolve and willingness to fight back.”

The suit claimed the first employee who served Dr. Mitchell-Stewart questioned the “validity of the check and her employment as a physician.”

The lawsuit claimed the employee said she had to confirm the authenticity of the check and also bring in a bank manager, NBC News stated. The employee, however, rather came back with an associate banker – not the bank manager.

The second worker then “told Dr. Mitchell-Stewart that her Check was fraudulent without providing justification,” the lawsuit claimed, adding that the Black doctor subsequently left the bank to “avoid being arrested and had an adverse emotional reaction over this humiliation.”

Dr. Mitchell-Stewart went back to the bank on December 27 to file a complaint. The bank’s branch manager also spoke to her and informed her they could have actually allowed her to deposit the check, and then freeze the account until they had confirmed the check’s authenticity, the suit stated.

And though the manager also apologized, Dr. Mitchell-Stewart was told the bank can choose to deny customers service for no reason at all. The plaintiff is seeking more than $1 million in damages and compensation. She also wants a trial by jury.

“It was an unfortunate situation. They took my special moment away. I felt like a criminal. I’ve never done anything wrong,” Dr. Mitchell-Stewart told ABC7. “In order to get Texas medical license or a medical license at all, you have to have a clean record. You have to go to school for so many years, and they just didn’t care. They didn’t respect that. They didn’t respect my credentials.”

“Dr. Mitchell-Stewart showed proof of identification. She showed proof that she was a doctor by presenting a business card. She even called employees from her medical group to confirm who she was,” Moore also said.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 7, 2022


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