Circling the Wagons: United States Department of Labor Requires Reinstatement and Back Pay for Wells Fargo Whistleblower

Circling the Wagons: United States Department of Labor Requires Reinstatement and Back Pay for Wells Fargo Whistleblower

By now we are all familiar with the widespread account fraud scandal banking giant Wells Fargo faced in late 2016 and early 2017. While the bank mires in fines and uncertainty, much of the compliance community is left wondering what happened to those employees who brought the fraud to light.  As we move further into 2017 we begin to understand the widespread fallout from the Wells Fargo scandal.

Related:  Wells Fargo Sales Abuses and Decentralization

 Last week the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) ordered Wells Fargo to reinstate and provide back pay to a California branch employee (the DOL keeps names of complainants anonymous) who was fired after reporting part of the fraud that was going on within the bank. As a result of a complaint to the DOL, this employee will be reinstated and paid $577,000 back pay wages, damages, and other compensation.

In one of the first of undoubtedly dozens of similar complaints, last week’s order shows the parameters of how a company must handle retaliation complaints in the wake of a large-scale public scandal. In addition to paying hefty monetary damages, Wells Fargo must reinstate the employee it fired and ensure that he or she is made to feel comfortable returning to a working environment where he or she made well-founded allegations and was actually retaliated against. This is not always an easy task.

Related:  Wells Fargo Sales Abuses and Performance Management

Reinstatement is always an equitable remedy in retaliation and discrimination cases. While many employees who sue their employer (or make Government Agency complaints) are looking to separate from the company and make them pay financially for their illegal actions, some employees truly love their work and wish to return to active duty as soon as a jury, court, or agency finds that the employer was in the wrong. In cases such as the one discussed above, it is extremely important that companies train their managers and employees on not only avoiding retaliation at the outset but how to welcome a newly reinstated employee back into the fold.

Admittedly, returning an employee who made serious official complaints is not the easiest task, and is one that often leads to further charges of whistleblowing, ostracism, discrimination, and retaliation.  That said, there are effective methods of ensuring that your workplace is a healthy one for an employee who is reinstated, such as private meetings with managers who will supervise the employee to discuss any issues that may be present with co-workers who may have been subjects of the complaint, and how to legally and correctly address them.

Related: Wells Fargo Sales Abuses and the Business Model

All methods of preventing and correcting retaliatory employment action are of course discussed in Syntrio’s preventing unlawful retaliation course, which we highly recommend as part of a suite of employment law and human resources training at all companies we work with. Doing so will have you far better prepared if disaster strikes.

 Do you have questions about your current anti-harassment, anti-discrimination or code of conduct training program? Contact us and we can work with you to make recommendations to augment and/or improve your current offering.

Syntrio is a leader in both the ethics and compliance field, as well as human resources and employment law, and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of compliance violations within the organization. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content. Contact for more information about our ethics and code of conduct online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!


Written by Jon Gonzalez,  Esq., Chief Legal Counsel

Posted in Code of Conduct, Compliance Training, Ethics, Ethics, Managing Within the Law and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , .