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Nonprofit accuses Bellco Credit Union of discriminating against new moms

DENVER -- Denver Metro Fair Housing Center filed a lawsuit against Bellco Credit Union, claiming the company discriminated against new moms by refusing to consider women on maternity leave for home mortgage loans.

Denver Metro Fair Housing Center executive director Arturo Alvarado said his nonprofit surveyed the top home mortgage lenders in the area. Women posing as being on maternity leave spoke with Bellco Credit Union employees about applying for home loans.

Alvarado said during the recorded conversations, the women were told they could not qualify for a loan while on maternity leave. When asked why, Alvarado said Bellco employees told the women they had to be back working for at least a month and have a pay stub to prove it.

According to the lawsuit, the employees told the women that a lot of new moms say they are going to go back to work but then never end up going back.

The lawsuit also said women were denied, regardless of if they are on paid maternity leave or if they have assets to cover the loss of income during maternity leave.

In the lawsuit, the nonprofit said Bellco Credit Union knew or should have known what it was doing was unlawful and illegal.

"It is an increasing issue in the community and quite frankly, in the Denver market, where housing prices are skyrocketing. Inventory is very low. Interest rates continue to rise. This is very troubling for people who want to take part in the American dream and to purchase their home," Alvarado said.

"For more than 80 years, Bellco has served as a trusted partner to our members in this community," Bellco said in a statement. "Bellco has never knowingly engaged in any discriminatory lending practices of any kind.

"In particular, Bellco’s policies forbid any kind of discrimination based on the sex or familial status of applicants, including pregnancy and maternity leave.

"Our attorneys are investigating the specific allegations in the complaint and will respond to them in court. But we are confident that the lawsuit has no merit."

Alvarado said victims of housing discrimination often do not know they are victims. Alvarado said anyone who thinks they have been victimized should contact Denver Metro Fair Housing Center or call 720-279-4291.