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Wells Fargo accused of a ‘campaign of retaliation’ against its employees

Written on behalf of Brian S. Kabateck | Kabateck LLP

October 28, 2016

Six former Wells Fargo employees are fighting back by filing a class action lawsuit in federal court seeking $7.2 billion or more for workers nationwide who were terminated for being forced to choose between keeping their jobs or opening fake accounts.  This comes only weeks after Wells Fargo begins to undergo criminal investigation initiated by California’s attorney general for  widespread sales scheme involving false impersonation and identity theft.

Wells Fargo is accused of fostering a culture that encouraged high-pressure sales tactics that prompted bank employees to create more than two million bank and credit card accounts without customers’ knowledge in an effort to meet sales goals. The bank said it fired about 5,300 employees since 2011 for improperly engaging in fraudulent account sales.

Dozens of former bank employees have reached out to various media outlets telling reporters they were terminated after refusing to open unauthorized accounts or calling the ethics hotline to report the misconduct they witnessed. Others claim the bank fired them for failing to meet the impossible sales expectations of opening 10 accounts per day. The workers say the “pressure-cooker” environment created by management caused panic attacks, shingles and other physical and emotional damages as a result of stress.

Apart from the most recent lawsuit another two former Wells Fargo employees from Los Angeles filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court alleging wrongful termination/retaliation and failure to pay wages, which are violations of California labor code. The lawsuit alleges that employees who refused to take part in the scam were “systematically and routinely terminated,” while those who did open illegitimate accounts were often promoted.

The majority of workers in California are at-will employees who can be terminated at any time for any reason or can quit whenever they want, for whatever reason. An exception to this rule is illegal discrimination and retaliation, which includes hostile actions such as discipline, demotion, salary cuts, reassignment and termination. Employees are protected from retaliation as long as the complaint is made in good faith.

If you are an employee who believes you have a claim, it’s important to create a timeline of events that outline each time you complained or tried to exercise your rights and what happened as a result once you voiced your concerns. To prove retaliation or whistleblowing you have to demonstrate that the company fired you because of your complaint or report of misconduct. The closer together your complaint and your employer’s negative reaction, the stronger the case. Each state has its own statute of limitations for wrongful termination actions. Federal statutes that protect whistleblowers also have limitations and some are as short as 30 days.   

KBK has extensive experience representing plaintiffs in employment cases involving wrongful termination/retaliation, worker misclassification retaliation and wage and hour cases. If you or a loved one has suffered workplace discrimination or retaliation contact one of our experienced attorneys to find out more about your rights.