SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered Wells Fargo Bank N.A. to compensate and immediately reinstate a former bank manager who lost his job after reporting suspected fraudulent behavior to superiors and a bank ethics hotline.
The manager, who had previously received positive job performance appraisals, was abruptly dismissed from his position at a Wells Fargo branch in the Los Angeles area after he reported separate incidents of suspected bank, mail and wire fraud by two bankers under his supervision. He was told he had 90 days to find a new position at Wells Fargo, and when he was unsuccessful, he was terminated. He has been unable to find work in banking since his termination in 2010.
An OSHA investigation concluded that the former manager’s whistleblower activity, which is protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, was at least a contributing factor in his termination. OSHA does not release names of whistleblower complainants.
In addition to reinstating the employee and clearing his personnel file, Wells Fargo has been ordered to fully compensate him for lost earnings during his time out of the banking industry. Back pay, compensatory damages, and attorneys’ fees were together calculated at about $5.4 million. Wells Fargo also must post a notice informing all employees of their whistleblower protections under Sarbanes-Oxley, widely known as “SOX.”
Wells Fargo can appeal the order before the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges, but such action does not stay the preliminary reinstatement order.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of SOX and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of airline, commercial motor vehicle, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. More information is available at www.whistleblowers.gov. For information about OSHA, visit http://www.osha.gov.