Fifth Third to pay $1.5M in discrimination case

The Justice Department said Thursday it has reached a $1.5 million settlement agreement with Fifth Third Mortgage Co. to resolve allegations that the firm unlawfully asked loan applicants for information related to their disabilities.

Under the terms of the deal, Fifth Third must also conduct employee training to prevent a repeat of the practices, which allegedly violated both the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

The settlement, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, stems from allegations that Fifth Third engaged in a pattern of discrimination by requiring applicants to provide a letter from their doctor to document the income they received from Social Security Disability Insurance.

“A person’s medical information is often some of the most personal information in and about their life,” said Georgia-based U.S. Attorney Michael J. Moore, who described the company’s actions as an “unnecessary, inappropriate and illegal intrusion into the most private of their affairs.”

Under the agreement, which still must be approved in federal court, Fifth Third would establish a settlement fund of $1,522,000 to compensate eligible mortgage loan applicants.

Fifth Third would also conduct training of underwriters and loan officers to make sure “that applicants with disabilities are not asked for a letter from a doctor,” the Justice Department said.