Houston doctor sues Chase Bank over alleged racial discrimination

Here's what we know

HOUSTON – A medical doctor has filed a $1 million lawsuit against Chase Bank, alleging staff at a branch in Sugar Land refused her request to open a new account and deposit a check because she is Black.

Dr. Malika Mitchell-Stewart, 35, said she had looked forward to depositing her first check as a physician. 

Mitchell-Stewart said she went to a Chase Bank, located on the 2400 block of Highway 6 in Sugar Land, in Dec. 2021, to open a new account and deposit a check worth $16,780.16.

“I went to the Chase Bank to open an account and deposit my first check as an attending physician,” Dr. Mitchell-Stewart said.

But Dr. Mitchell-Stewart said a teller seemed suspicious when she handed her the check.

“She looked at it and then she looked at me and she kinda started asking questions like ‘what do you do for a living? How old are you,’ just different things like that,” Dr. Mitchell-Stewart said, adding the teller told her she needed to verify the check with a manager.

The lawsuit alleges the employee returned with a woman claiming to be the branch manager, telling Dr. Mitchell-Stewart, “she did not feel comfortable allowing her to open a bank account at the First Colony Branch with the check because [the bank employee] believed Dr. Mitchell-Stewart was attempting to commit fraud,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges, “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.”

Dr. Mitchell-Stewart’s attorney, Justin Moore, said the allegations outlined in the suit speak clearly to his client being discriminated against because of her race.

“They criminalized her and suggested she was a scammer,” Moore said.

Moore said Chase Bank had a history of discriminating against people of color, liking the bank’s alleged practices to redlining.

“I think this falls within the pattern and practices with which Chase has followed for years,” Moore added.

Moore said attorneys for Chase Bank had not responded to the lawsuit, which was filed Feb. 2 in United States District Court Southern District of Texas.

A spokesperson for the bank responded to a request for comment from KPRC2.

“We take customer experience very seriously. We have apologized to Dr. Mitchell Stewart,” Greg Hassell, Chase Media Relations.

However, Dr. Mitchell-Stewart said no one apologized to her.

“I haven’t talked to anyone,” she said.

According to the lawsuit, Dr. Mitchell-Stewart is requesting a jury trial, with damages listed at $1 million. 

Dr. Mitchell-Stewart said her decision to file suit had nothing to do with money, but principle.  She said she’s also requested Chase implement changes to how it trains its employees in matters of race.

“I want there to be racial bias training and discriminatory policies created to not let this happen again,” she said.

About the Author:

Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. NOLA born and bred, though #HoustonStrong, with stops in Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in along the way.