Respect Diversity + Inclusion

After winning one discrimination lawsuit, a Detroit man walks into another

a black man signs a check

Story at a glance

  • Sauntore Thomas was trying to cash checks from a settlement in a discrimination lawsuit when he says he was racially discriminated against by his bank.
  • TCF Bank has apologized for calling local police and says they condemn racism and discrimination.
  • The man is now suing TCF Bank for racial discrimination.

Sauntore Thomas was trying to deposit settlements checks from a discrimination lawsuit with his former employer at his bank on Jan. 21. An assistant manager at TCF Bank in Livonia, Mich., suspected the 44-year-old black man was committing fraud and called the police. Now, he’s suing again for racial discrimination.

“I didn’t deserve treatment like that when I knew that the check was not fraudulent,” Thomas told the Detroit Free Press. “I’m a United States veteran. I have an honorable discharge from the Air Force. They discriminated against me because I’m black. None of this would have happened if I were white.”

Black Americans have historically faced discrimination in the banking system, and recent data from the Federal Reserve shows that black-owned businesses are twice as likely to be denied loans than white-owned companies. 

TCF Bank released a statement apologizing on Jan. 23, the day the Free Press first reported the story.

“We apologize for the experience Mr. Thomas had at our banking center. Local police should not have been involved. We strongly condemn racism and discrimination of any kind,” TCF said in a statement. The bank went on to say that they take extra precautions with large deposits and requests for cash and were unable to validate checks presented by Thomas.

Thomas told the Free Press that he called his lawyer, to verify that the checks were from a civil suit settlement, but that the bank wouldn’t take her word for it. 

“I got on the phone with the bank. I sent them my federal court complaint, to see that it matched. I did everything,” attorney Deborah Gordon told the Free Press, who says the matter would have been cleared up easily if TCF had called the bank that issued the checks. 

Thomas closed his account at TCF, went to a Chase Bank, opened an account and deposited the checks there; they cleared in 12 hours. He is suing TCF for unspecified damages. 

“I feel very intimidated because I knew that if I would have gotten loud, they would have had me on the ground for disturbance of the peace. But I didn’t get loud. I didn’t get confrontational. I did nothing,” Thomas told the Free Press. “I had a very long journey and I feel like I have to go through the same thing again. It’s frustrating, but I do know God is in control. I will be vindicated because I didn’t do anything wrong.”

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