Wells Fargo Agrees to Settle Race and Sex Bias Claims for $7.8 Million

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Wells Fargo has agreed to pay $7.8 million to settle nationwide claims that it discriminated against Black and female job applicants in violation of federal law.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) alleged that the San Francisco-based banking giant discriminated against 34,193 Black applicants for banking, customer service and administrative roles and 308 female applicants for administrative support jobs.

The bank provides products and services under contract with many federal agencies. The OFCCP—which is responsible for ensuring that federal contractors comply with nondiscrimination laws and regulations—said that Wells Fargo violated an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against workers based on national origin, race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.

The OFCCP "is satisfied that Wells Fargo has pursued an early resolution conciliation agreement and addressed the issues found in our review," said Director Craig Leen. "OFCCP's Early Resolution Procedures program helps ensure prompter and broader relief for America's workforce by allowing contractors facing a potential violation to proactively correct such violations and ensure future companywide compliance."

Wells Fargo did not admit to any wrongdoing in the conciliation agreement.

We've rounded up articles and resources from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets on the news.

Reviewing HR Practices

Wells Fargo will pay back wages and interest to the job applicants and is committed to hiring 580 of the applicants in roles as tellers, personal bankers, customer sales and service representatives, and administrative support professionals. Under the conciliation agreement, the company will also take steps to ensure its HR practices comply with federal requirements.

(U.S. Department of Labor)

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Efforts

Wells Fargo has about 7,400 locations and employs approximately 263,000 people worldwide. The company said it continues to advance equal employment opportunities and diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) across its locations. "We know that we can be a force for change across this country," said Wells Fargo Chief Executive Officer Charlie Scharf on the bank's website.

(The Mercury News)

Prior Settlements

The OFCCP randomly audits federal contractors for compliance with anti-bias and affirmative action requirements, and Wells Fargo has settled OFCCP discrimination claims in the past. The company agreed to a $600,000 settlement of job applicants' race and sex discrimination claims in 2019 and settled a disability accommodation claim in 2015. "The agreement with the OFCCP relates to its routine review of hiring data from six to 10 years ago in a small number of U.S. geographies," said Peter Gilchrist, a Wells Fargo spokesperson, said in an email to Bloomberg Law. He noted that the company has since changed its hiring strategy to include centralized recruiting, enhanced record-keeping and partnerships with diverse organizations, such as historically black colleges and universities.

(Bloomberg Law)

Try These Strategies to Reduce Implicit Bias in Your Workplace

HR professionals and their organizations can mitigate the effects of implicit bias, beginning with the employer's recruiting and hiring process and continuing through the employee's growth within the organization. Eric Ellis, a speaker at the Society for Human Resource Management's Talent virtual conference, shared these tips for curbing bias.

(SHRM Online)

Diversify Your Recruitment Sources to Improve DE&I

Employers have promised to improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) at their organizations since nationwide protests against racial injustice began in June. One of the first steps companies can take to meet those commitments is reviewing how their recruiting and hiring is done—from how job advertisements are written to which candidate sources are mined for talent and which recruitment partners are chosen.

(SHRM Online)

Visit SHRM's resource page on preventing hiring bias.

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