Wells Fargo Bank, facing a multi-billion dollar class action by former employees, has been served with a complaint in state court in New Jersey. The legal action, filed by a former teller, alleges gender discrimination, age discrimination and wrongful discharge. The plaintiff, Lenore Kuter, says she was terminated when she refused to cheat customers to meet sales requirements.
According to Kuter’s lawsuit, Wells Fargo established unrealistic and unattainable goals for its employees—one required tellers and other bank workers to get their customers to open up at least 8 accounts. Performance evaluations, bonuses and raises were all tied to meeting what many considered to be unrealistic and unethical goals. In 2014, around 5,000 Wells Fargo employees signed a petition asking the bank to change its employee incentive programs. The bank ignored the petition.
Kuter says she was routinely encouraged to open fraudulent accounts, and was harassed and denied promotions when she balked at doing so. Ultimately, she says, she was fired for refusing to engage in unethical behavior, but “other factors” were cited as the reason for her termination.
It’s not the first time Wells Fargo has faced similar accusations. In 2009, the company settled a federal class action lawsuit for gender discrimination, agreeing to pay $32 million based on wrongful conduct in its Wachovia Securities brokerage.
Wells Fargo has publicly acknowledged over the last month that some 5,000 employees were either allowed or encouraged to open as many as two million bogus accounts on behalf of customers, accounts the customers did not know had been opened.
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