WASHINGTON — Democratic senators sent a letter Thursday to the Department of Labor requesting an investigation into possible labor violations at Wells Fargo related to unpaid overtime and other abuses that came to light after articles by the Los Angeles Times and a regulatory settlement announced earlier this month.
"The investigation of Wells Fargo also uncovered a workplace characterized by stringent sales quotas and aggressive incentives imposed on its employees, and staggering neglect by management of the obvious consequences to consumers of those quotas and incentives," said the letter, which was sent to Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez and David Weil, administrator of the Labor Department's wage and hour division.
An investigation by the Labor Department would be the latest headache for Wells after paying $190 million in fines and restitution to settle charges that thousands of former employees opened up roughly 2 million fake deposit and credit card accounts for customers in order to meet demanding sales goals. There are indications that the Justice Department could also be bringing civil and criminal actions against Wells management.
The letter cited a recent class-action lawsuit field in Pennsylvania related to unpaid overtime, news reports of "mental abuse" and employees being forced to work overtime after not meeting sales goals. The senators said they have found complaints and possible violations of wage and hour protections that go back as far as 1999.
"Any such investigation should include a comprehensive inquiry into whether Wells Fargo aggressively skirted overtime laws — failing to pay overtime to bank tellers and associates who stayed late or came in on weekends to meet their sales quotas, or misclassifying salaried bank associates as overtime-exempt to avoid paying the overtime guaranteed to them by" the Federal Labor Standards Act, the letter said. "The Wage & Hour Division's investigation is needed especially in this instance because of the bank's current strategy of paying settlements without admitting wrongdoing , and then making no changes to its compensation practices."
The letter was signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Jack Reed, D-R.I.; Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii.