OSHA orders Wells Fargo to reinstate SoCal whistleblower; pay $577K in back wages, damages, attorneys’ fees
SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered Wells Fargo to reinstate and pay $577,500 in back wages, damages and other fees to a former branch manager in Pomona who was terminated after she reported conduct by at least three “private bankers” working under her that she reasonably believed to be bank, wire and mail fraud.
Investigators with the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Wells Fargo terminated the employee turned whistleblower in September 2011 because of concerns raised that the bank’s private bankers were opening customer accounts and enrolling customers in bank products without their knowledge, consent or appropriate disclosures. OSHA also found Wells Fargo fired the branch manager for reporting violations of one or more of the enumerated consumer financial laws implemented and enforced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The former branch manager’s reports to Wells Fargo Bank were determined to be protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010, and were determined to be at least a contributing factor in her termination.
“No banking industry employee should fear retaliation for raising concerns about fraud and practices that violate consumer financial protections,” said Barbara Goto, OSHA regional administrator in San Francisco. “The U.S. Department of Labor will fully and fairly enforce the whistleblower protection laws under its jurisdiction.”
In addition to reinstating the employee and clearing her personnel file, OSHA ordered Wells Fargo to fully compensate her for back pay, compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees – calculated at greater than $577,500. Wells Fargo also must post a notice informing employees of their whistleblower protections under the Sarbanes-Oxley and Consumer Financial Protection acts.
The order may be appealed to the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges, but an appeal does not stay the preliminary reinstatement order.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower protection provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley and Consumer Financial Protection acts and 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of occupational safety and health, airline, commercial motor vehicle, consumer product, environmental, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad and maritime laws. More information is available at www.whistleblowers.gov.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
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Editor’s note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.