Wells Fargo Accused of Holding Fake Interviews with Women and People of Color to Boost the Bank’s Appearance of Diversity – JD Supra

Wells Fargo Accused of Holding Fake Interviews with Women and People of Color to Boost the Bank’s Appearance of Diversity  JD Supra

Recently, several current and former employees of Wells Fargo—including one high-ranking executive—reported that the financial services giant regularly conducted sham interviews with women and people of color. Evidently, Wells Fargo held these interviews after management had already selected an applicant for the position, meaning the person interviewing never had a shot at getting the job.

Did you recently interview at Wells Fargo for a position you were qualified for? Did you leave the interview thinking it went well and expect to hear good news? Were your hopes suddenly dashed when you got a call informing you that they passed over you for another applicant? If so, you are not alone, and you may have a type of employment discrimination claim against Wells Fargo.

What Are the Fake Interview Claims Against Wells Fargo?

In mid-May, several major news outlets, including the New York Times, reported that Wells Fargo maintained a practice of holding interviews with diverse candidates despite the company already having selected an application for the position. These allegations were raised by seven current and former Wells Fargo employees, including one who held the prestigious title of market leader for Wells Fargo Advisors in Jacksonville, Florida. Three current Wells Fargo employees report that these practices continued up until at least earlier this year.

Why Would Wells Fargo Hold Fake Interviews?

Why would one of the most successful banks in history devote resources to conducting interviews with applicants it had no intention of hiring? The answer lies in a decades-long history of alleged race discrimination at Wells Fargo.

Going back to 2013, Wells Fargo was sued by a group of about 320 Black financial advisers sued the bank for racial discrimination. Among other things, financial advisers are responsible for bringing in new business to the bank, and they are compensated, in part, based on the amount of money they bring in. The financial advisers bringing the case claimed that Wells Fargo assigned them to low-income neighborhoods where they would have a harder time building their client base. With limited ability to bring in clients, these advisers’ opportunities for advancement within the company were hampered. A few years into the lawsuit, Wells Fargo settled the class action for about $36 million.

Fast forward a few years to 2020. In the wake of the national outcry against the murder of George Floyd, Wells Fargo (along with almost every other company in the country) decided it was finally time to take diversity seriously. However, the chief executive officer, in an internal memo to employees, explained that “there is a very limited pool of black talent to recruit from.” He later apologized for the comment after it was leaked to the internet.

Finally, just a few months later, the bank settled a race discrimination claim brought by the U.S. Department of Labor for $8 million. The case alleged that the bank discriminated against more than 30,000 Black job applicants for various banking, sales and support jobs.

The result is that, over the past decade, Wells Fargo has developed an image of being less-then-diverse and, according to some, less-than-sincere about its initiatives to foster a more diverse group of employees. This sets the context for the fake interviews, which could be the latest in a string of ill attempts to appear diverse.

Did Wells Fargo Violate Anti-Discrimination Laws by Holding Sham Interviews?

Certainly, holding fake interviews for certain groups of people is something that strikes most people as wrong. And for good reason, if what the current and former employees report is true, Wells Fargo wasted interviewees’ time, gave them false hope, and used them to give off the illusion that the company was something that it wasn’t. However, whether Wells Fargo engaged in prohibited employment discrimination is a bit of a harder question.

Under state and federal employment law, it is illegal for employers to consider certain things when making hiring decisions. A failure-to-hire claim is a type of employment discrimination claim based on the idea that, but for a job applicant’s member of a protected class, the employer would have hired the applicant. Essentially, the law prevents companies like Wells Fargo from treating employees differently because of their race, sex, or gender identity. While conducting sham interviews doesn’t necessarily prove Wells Fargo was acting with discriminatory intent, it certainly is an indication that may be the case.

For women and diverse applicants who applied for a job at Wells Fargo and were passed over, it’s an incredibly frustrating experience. And upon learning that the company may have been using them as a pawn to advance its own agenda and public image is infuriating. Those who are interested in pursuing a failure to hire employment discrimination claim against Wells Fargo should consult with an experienced attorney to discuss their rights and how best to proceed.

Source: jdsupra.com

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