Mr Sauntore Thomas sued his employer for racial discrimination. He won the case and his employer issued him with a cheque in the settlement. He took the cheque to his bank, but the bank did not believe he could have a cheque with such an amount and called the police who detained and harassed him, just because he took a “large” cheque to the bank. Now Mr Thomas is suing his bank for racial discrimination for what his lawyers called resistance to “banking while black.”
Mr Thomas went to his local TCF bank in Livonia, Detroit, Michigan. He had held an account at the bank for almost two years, and he tried to deposit the cheque he had been awarded in a racial discrimination suit with his former employer. But the bank staff suspected fraud and didn’t believe the cheque was real and called the police on him.
The bank said they could not validate Mr Thomas’s cheque and said they take extra precautions when large sums of money are involved.
Ten minutes later, Mr Thomas waited in the lobby for a member of staff to return, but four police officers arrived.
Mr Thomas called his lawyer, who provided them with proof of the settlement, but still he wasn’t allowed to deposit his cheque. As a result, he closed his account and went to a nearby branch of Chase bank and opened a new account with them, and his money had cleared without issue in a matter of hours.
TCF Bank has since apologised to Mr Thomas in a statement. According to the statement in Detroit Free Press, “Local police should not have been involved. We strongly condemn racism and discrimination of any kind.”
Mr Thomas told Buzzfeed News, “I didn’t give them any type of indication that I was getting upset,” mindful of high profile cases in which black people have been killed by police officers.
“I wanted to make sure I stayed as level-headed as possible because I wasn’t going to be the next person on the ground saying, ‘I can’t breathe.’”
“I will be vindicated because I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.
Police began an investigation into Mr Thomas for fraud during the incident, but have since closed the case.
Thomas told the Detroit Free Press. “I’m a United States veteran. I have an honourable discharge from the Air Force. They discriminated against me because I’m black. None of this would have happened if I were white.”