Chase Bank refused Black doctor’s $16,000 check, lawsuit claims

The bank accused the woman of fraud and turned her away

A Black doctor in Texas is taking legal action against a Chase bank in a federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination.

Malika Mitchell-Stewart, 35, said in a lawsuit filed this week that she was denied opening a bank account at First Colony branch in Sugar Land with a check worth more than $16,000 from her employer, NBC News reports.

The incident occurred on Dec. 18 and the physician claims the staff asked her “peculiar questions” in an effort to validate the check and her employment. The bank ultimately turned her away, accusing her of fraud. 

The Chase logo is displayed on the exterior of a Chase bank in San Francisco, California (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Mitchell-Stewart received the check in the amount of $16,780.16 as a signing bonus from Valley Oaks Medical Group, according to the lawsuit filed against JPMorgan Chase and two of its employees at a branch in Sugar Land.

“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 said.

“Even after Dr. Mitchell-Stewart showed employees at First Colony Branch identification, emails between her and the clinic she works for along with her business she was still treated like a criminal,” the suit states. 

Mitchell-Stewart returned to the bank on Dec. 27 to file a complaint. The branch manager apologized for her initial experience but noted that Chase can refuse service to anyone without justification. 

“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,” the lawsuit states. 

“I’ve never done anything wrong,” Mitchell-Stewart told KTRK-TV. “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.”

“For her credentials to be questioned and for her to be accused of being a scammer is unforgivable,” her attorney, Justin Moore, said on Facebook. “We as a community need to protect them when instances of blatant discrimination is used to belittle and diminish their status as essential professionals.”

Greg Hassell, a regional spokesperson for Chase said in a statement: “We take this matter very seriously, and are investigating the situation. We have reached out to Dr. Mitchell-Stewart to better understand what happened and apologize for her experience.”

JPMorgan Chase said in a statement Thursday: “We take this matter very seriously and are investigating the situation. We have reached out to Dr. Mitchell-Stewart to better understand what happened and apologize for her experience.”

Moore filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on Mitchell-Stewart’s behalf, seeking more than $1 million in damages. 

“We see this with corporations all the time. They apologize for their participation in racism, but they don’t do anything to foster allyship,” Moore said. “They’ve been accused of racial discrimination for years, but have they adequately addressed us for any of those issues?”

The suit alleges that the employees “personally acted with malice and/or reckless indifference” towards Mitchell-Stewart.

Mitchell-Stewart claims the experience caused her emotional distress, mental anguish, embarrassment, and humiliation, according to the report. 

“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 said, as reported by .

“It seems to be a pattern and practice of racial discrimination at their company. I think what’s happening with Dr. Malika Mitchell-Stewart’s case is giving others the courage to talk about their prior experience,” Moore said, as reported by KABC-TV.

“It’s my hope that people will see this lawsuit and rally behind Dr. Malika and other people who experienced discrimination,” he added. 

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