27% of U.S. Consumers Would End Banking Relationship After a Discrimination Lawsuit, According to New Survey from York Public Relations

Study also finds nearly one-quarter of U.S. consumers would end a relationship with their bank or credit union if an employee was involved in an organizational misdeed

ATLANTA, Oct. 22, 2020 – York Public Relations, the nation’s only crisis PR firm dedicated exclusively to mitigating crises for financial institutions and fintechs, today revealed that over one-quarter (27%) of U.S. consumers would end a relationship with a financial institution if it was involved in a discrimination lawsuit, such as one regarding gender, race or sexual orientation. The survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of York Public Relations, garnering responses from 2,053 U.S. adults age 18 and older.

Based on the findings, there was hardly any difference between men and women, with 26% of men and 27% of women indicating they would end a banking relationship following the bank experiencing a discrimination lawsuit. There was, however, differences among age groups, with younger generations the more likely to be concerned with this type of crisis. Only 21% of Boomers (ages 56-74) would sever ties with an FI if it were involved in a discrimination lawsuit. That number nearly doubles for Gen Z (ages 18-26), with 39% that would end a relationship. Millennials (ages 24-39) were also more likely than Boomers to be concerned with discrimination lawsuits at 24%.

Additionally, nearly one-quarter (22%) of U.S. consumers would end a relationship with a financial institution if an employee was involved in an organizational misdeed, such as a sexual harassment scandal or fraud. Younger consumers tend to be more turned off by organizational misdeeds, with 26% each of Gen Z and Millennials, and 23% of Gen X compared to Boomers at 16%.

Workplace harassment and discrimination claims continue to climb, even among financial institutions, with more than 140,000 cases reported last year. Sexual harassment complaints, specifically, have increased significantly since the #MeToo movement began in October 2017. In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 7,609 sexual-harassment complaints in 2018, up 13.6% from the previous year.

The EEOC also reported that employment discrimination lawsuits are on the rise and have been for several years, with retaliation accounting for nearly 46% of all cases. Reverse Discrimination cases are also seemingly increasing, however, the EEOC does not keep tally of such claims. Claims for employment discrimination in general have continued to rise, accounting for 36.2% of total claims in 2016 but increasing to 40% in 2018.

“Discrimination claims for gender, race and sexual orientation have been rising over the last several years. Even more, social media and citizen journalists bring greater attention to such scandals – whether they have merit or not,” said Mary York, CEO of York Public Relations.

York added, “Regardless, consumers can quickly lose trust and excitement for brands that are accused of misdeeds. Even if claims are determined false later, reversing such perceptions can be difficult, making it critical to invest in a crisis plan before it’s too late.”