Minority Employees Contend They Were Targeted By Employer’s Background Check Policy

Almost everyone has done something in the past of which they’re not proud. For some, such acts and actions may have resulted in an arrest and criminal conviction. From youthful indiscretions to simply making poor decisions, many individuals who are convicted of drug, theft or other misdemeanor charges learn from their mistakes and make a conscious and concerted effort to turn their lives around.

Seven former Wells Fargo employees recently filed a lawsuit against the company amid allegations that the banking giant violated portions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to legal documents, the plaintiffs contend the defendant’s background check policy unfairly targets and punishes minority employees.

For example, in 1995 one of the plaintiffs was arrested and charged with criminal activities related to securing welfare benefits. Twelve years later, she secured a job at Wells Fargo, a position she held until a 2012 background check revealed record of the deferred judgment. Despite the fact that roughly 17 years had elapsed since the woman’s brush with the law, Wells Fargo insists the company is bound by strict Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. laws that bar banks “from employing people convicted of ‘crimes of dishonesty’.”

While, at $1 million dollars per day, the penalties for violating these types of FDIC laws are stiff, employers have the option of filing for a waiver or exemption. Per FDIC regulations, a financial institution can apply for a waiver with regard to an employee’s criminal background history and, to avoid any penalties, simply suspend an employee until the waiver is approved. Despite the fact that, in the cases of all seven former employees, Wells Fargo could have applied for FDIC waivers, the company failed to do so.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars employers from enacting company policies that disproportionately and negatively impact employees from minority groups. Los Angeles area residents, who believe they have been singled out and negatively impacted by a workplace policy, may choose to discuss their case with an attorney.

Source: The Des Moines Register, “Lawsuit: Wells Fargo fired blacks over old convictions,” Grant Rodgers, April 19, 2015

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