Wells Fargo Ordered To Reinstate Whistleblower

The federal government has ordered Wells Fargo to reinstate a former bank manager in California who lost his job after he reported suspected fraudulent behavior at the bank.

The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced in early April that Wells Fargo must rehire the employee. OSHA also ordered the bank to pay back wages, compensatory damages and attorneys' fees totaling $5.4 million.

OSHA concluded the manager was "abruptly" forced to leave a Los Angeles branch of the bank in 2010 after he told superiors he suspected two of his subordinates of bank, mail and wire fraud. The manager also called the bank's ethics hot line.

The bank employee was protected under whistleblower law. A whistleblower is an employee who reports a violation of the law by his or her employer. The federal government and most states (including Minnesota) have laws protecting whistleblowers from retaliation for filing a claim or reporting a violation.

Wells Fargo Will Request A Hearing

In the Wells Fargo case, OSHA concluded the employee's whistle blowing was "at least a contributing factor in his termination."

The bank said it plans to request a hearing on the OSHA decision in front of the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges. The request will not stop the employee's reinstatement.

A bank spokesperson said: "We take seriously the concerns of current and former team members. This decision is a preliminary order and to date there has been no hearing on the merits of this case. We disagree with the findings and will be requesting a full hearing of the matter."

Minnesota's Whistleblower Law

Minnesota's whistleblower law protects private and public employees who report violations of federal or state law or refuse to perform any action they reasonably believe is illegal. Damages may include lost wages after termination or other negative effects of retaliation.

Sources:

1. "Government Orders Wells Fargo To Reinstate Whistleblower," Reuters, April 3, 2017

2. "Disclosure Of Information By Employees," Minnesota Statutes