A federal judge has ordered Wells Fargo to pay $97.3 million in damages to mortgage workers in California who officials say were not paid adequately for their breaks. According to a CNN news report, the judgment comes after the court ruled that Wells Fargo violated California’s labor laws. The damages awarded in a class action lawsuit are almost four times what Wells Fargo argued it owed to its workers.
Court Rules in Workers’ Favor
This ruling applies to Wells Fargo mortgage consultants and bankers who worked at the bank in California between March 2013 and August 2017. This is the latest stain on Wells Fargo’s reputation. The bank has admitted to mistreating both consumers and workers and has faced unprecedented sanctions for widespread consumer abuses. Under California’s labor laws, employers are required to give workers a 10-minute paid break for every four hours they work. The question in this class action lawsuit was whether Wells Fargo was paying its workers fairly during their breaks.
U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson found that the bank’s pay practices violated state law. Attorneys for the bank argued that the settlement should be no more than $24.5 million because it only owes workers their regular hourly rate during the breaks. However, the judge took the side of the workers who said their break pay should also take into consideration the lucrative commissions they earn. Wells Fargo has already said it plans to appeal this ruling.
This is not the first time Wells Fargo has been tangled in labor law issues. In 2016, former employees alleged they were wrongfully terminated by the bank after blowing the whistle on wrongdoing to the bank’s ethics hotline. The company was ordered to rehire a whistleblower who reported fraud and to pay him $5.4 million. Former Wells Fargo workers have also brought a class action alleging they protested sales misconduct and were fired for not meeting sales goals. In addition, the bank is facing a number of federal and state class action lawsuits over pay issues.
Taking the Power Back
Class-action lawsuits offer workers the opportunity to band together and fight back against employers’ unfair wage practices. As we see with Wells Fargo, these types of unethical and unlawful practices don’t crop up overnight. It is likely that they have been occurring for many years if not decades and a number of workers have been affected. Class-action lawsuits are pretty much the only way for workers to take the power back and hold their employers accountable. If you have been mistreated or have not been paid due wages by your employer, please contact an experienced California class action lawyer to find out what steps you can take next.