Wells Fargo to pay nearly $8 million to resolve hiring discrimination accusations

©The Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Wells Fargo will pay $7.8 million in back wages to settle accusations from the federal government that it discriminated against tens of thousands of Black and female job applicants, the U.S. Department of Labor said.

The U.S. Department of Labor alleged that the bank discriminated against 34,193 Black applicants for banking, customer sales and service and administrative support roles in the U.S., the agency said in a news release late Monday.

The department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs also alleged that the bank discriminated against 308 female applicants for administrative support jobs. The agency did not provide details about the alleged discrimination.

Wells Fargo did not admit liability as part of its “conciliation agreement” it reached with the government to resolve the accusations. But it also agreed to provide job opportunities to 580 impacted applicants, and plans to take measures to ensure its hiring policies comply with federal regulations, according to the release.

In a statement, bank spokesman Peter Gilchrist said the agreement pertains to a routine review of hiring data from six to 10 years ago in a small number of locations.

He said the review found that African American people were selected at lower rates for some positions as tellers, customer service representatives and personal and phone banker jobs, but Hispanic people were generally chosen at the highest rate due to demand for Spanish-language skills for some roles.

Gilchrist said there were no findings that hiring managers at Wells Fargo intentionally discriminated against job applicants.

He said in the time since then, the bank has made a number of changes, including centralizing recruiting, creating a recruitment team focused on diverse talent and working with diverse organizations like Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The labor department alleged that Wells Fargo violated a law that bans federal contractors from employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bank contracts with various federal agencies, the release said, including the Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Wells Fargo is headquartered in San Francisco and employs around 27,000 people in Charlotte, its largest employment hub.

Other banks have been hit with charges of discriminatory hiring practices.

Last year, Charlotte-based Bank of America agreed to pay $4.2 million in back wages and interest after allegations from the Department of Labor that it discriminated against Black, Latino and female applicants for certain roles.

Prior to merging with Wells Fargo, Charlotte-based Wachovia said it would pay $5.5 million to resolve accusations that it discriminated against 2,021 current and former female workers.

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©2020 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)