Wells Fargo slapped with over $22 million sum for retaliating against executive

Bank's 'financial misconduct' is reportedly the officer's issue

Wells Fargo slapped with over $22 million sum for retaliating against executive

Wells Fargo is ordered to pay more than $22 million for violating the whistleblower protection provision by inappropriately dismissing an employee who voiced concerns about the company’s alleged misconduct, the US Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported.

According to OSHA’s media release, the government ordered the San Francisco-based bank to pay the employee, including “back wages, interest, lost bonuses and benefits, front pay and compensatory damages.”

Retaliation against employee

The government said the case involved a Chicago area-based senior manager working at Wells Fargo’s commercial banking segment.

During his employment, the senior manager repeatedly voiced concerns to the area managers and the corporate ethics concerning conduct that workers believed breached financial laws, including wire fraud. The manager stated that they were instructed to fabricate customer information and claimed that the management was involved in price fixing and interest rate collusion through exclusive dealing.

Read more: California court calls for further proceedings in suit claiming whistleblower retaliation

However, even though the senior manager acknowledged that the conduct was illegal based on company-required training, higher authorities terminated the employees in 2019.

“After initially failing to provide a reason for the termination, Wells Fargo later alleged the manager was terminated as part of a restructuring process,” OSHA said. “However, investigators found the removal was not consistent with Wells Fargo’s treatment of other managers removed under the initiative.”

The employee then filed a complaint against the bank, claiming retaliation under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

“The evidence demonstrates Wells Fargo took retaliatory action against this senior manager for repeatedly expressing concerns about financial management they believed violated federal laws,” Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Doug Parker, said.

“The Sarbanes-Oxley Act protects employees from retaliation in these very circumstances and the Department of Labor will not tolerate employers who violate the law and illegally terminate workers that exercise their rights under the law,” he added.

The government noted that both parties are given 30 days from receiving OSHA’s finding “to file objections and request a hearing before an administrative law judge.”

Whistleblower Protection Program

Employees should become more mindful, as the DOL noted that retaliation against a worker comes in many types. 

Retaliation could be in the form of a worker being denied the right to swap shifts, as typical in workplace practice, just because the employer found out that the worker called OSHA regarding a fire hazard concern.

In other words, “retaliation occurs when an employer (through a manager, supervisor, or administrator) fires an employee or takes any other type of adverse action against an employee for engaging in protected activity,” the government noted.

“An adverse action is an action which would dissuade a reasonable employee from raising a concern about a possible violation or engaging in other related protected activity,” it added.

The government noted that temporary workers are also protected from retaliation with both the host employer, and the staffing agency that supplied the worker to a business, legally responsible for retaliating against workers.

It further said that employees who believe they are victims of retaliation should file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA.

“A whistleblower complaint filed with OSHA cannot be filed anonymously,” DOL noted. “If OSHA proceeds with an investigation, OSHA will notify your employer of your complaint and provide the employer with an opportunity to respond,” it said.

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