Wells Fargo has been under fire for the past few weeks since the discovery of their alleged efforts forcing employees to cross-sell customers more products to meet lofty goals. Now, several senators are asking the U.S. Labor Department to determine if Wells Fargo employees were abused by their employer.
The banking giant was fined $185 million by California and U.S. regulators for the employees' misconduct - opening up millions of unauthorized accounts under customers' names and transferring money, as well as signing them up for online banking without their consent.
Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf was grilled by members of the Senate two weeks ago at a meeting of the Senate Banking Committee. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., told Stumpf that he had made millions while pushing these questionable practices on employees, and told him that he "should resign ... and you should be criminally investigated."
Alleged retaliation for employees
The investigators also noted that it was clear that the Wells Fargo higher-ups aren't losing their jobs and receive large pay packages, while the employees are being punished. Since 2011, about 5,300 employees have been terminated.
The senators asked the Labor Department to investigate claims that tellers, branch managers and customer service workers were harassed and threatened with the prospect of losing their job during the push to sell more services. They were also allegedly mandated hours of overtime which wasn't paid, and retaliated against when they tried to stand up to the illegal practices they were asked to do.
Labor Secretary Tom Perez said last week that he takes the complaints of the senators and investigators very seriously and aims to get to the bottom of Wells Fargo's labor practices that may have abused employees.
What is retaliation?
Employees in this situation appear to have a great number of complaints against the company. If Wells Fargo did harass employees with threats of termination if they didn't perform, this is definitely an issue of retaliation.
Retaliation occurs when an employee refuses to comply with policies or practices that are illegal or dangerous, or does something that is legally protected, and the employer punishes them. Punishments can include threats, demotions, termination, reduction in salary and job or shift reassignment.
If you've experienced retaliation at work, the first step should be contacting an attorney. They can help you explore your options and answer your questions while seeking potential compensation.