Wells Fargo avoided paying overtime to ‘understaffed’ workers, class-action lawsuit claims

by TexasDigitalMagazine.com

A Wells Fargo & Co. employee taking part in a rare unionization effort at the bank on Thursday filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in an effort to earn overtime pay in her work as a senior premier banker.

Sabrina Perez’s complaint with law firm Outten & Golden in the federal court in the Northern District of California challenges an alleged practice at Wells Fargo of exempting senior premier bankers from overtime pay, which is 1.5 times regular pay when a worker puts in more than 40 hours in a week.

The lawsuit accuses Wells Fargo of violating the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as New Mexico state wage laws.

“Wells Fargo systematically understaffs its branch locations,” the lawsuit says. “Senior premier bankers spend significant time performing these tasks, which forces them to work long hours….But because Wells Fargo does not pay senior bankers overtime, it evades the responsibility to pay for the overtime work it assigns.”

Spokespeople from Wells Fargo did not immediately respond to MarketWatch requests for comment.

Perez, a senior premier banker in the Albuquerque, N.M. branch, said she worked 43 hours of overtime during the week of July 10 alone without overtime compensation, according to the suit. The lawsuit estimates at least 40 people in New Mexico could be affected by the practices, plus many more across the country.

There are “hundreds of current and former senior premier bankers who are [in a similar situation to the] plaintiff and were denied overtime compensation,” the complaint said.

Perez has also joined a group of employees at the Wells Fargo branch in Albuquerque, N.M., to file plans with the National Labor Relations Board to form a collective-bargaining unit, as The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.

The lawsuit over overtime pay does not mention the union effort.

In an interview, Perez said she brought up the question of overtime pay with her supervisor at the bank, but was told “that’s just how things are.” 

The lawsuit is “another tool” along with the union effort to improve working conditions at the bank, Perez said.

The lawsuit also highlights the larger question of how the increasing use of software tools is making jobs more like hourly worker tasks rather than more discretionary work that would be potentially exempt from overtime pay.

The legal action by Perez also alleges that Wells Fargo misclassified senior premier bankers as exempt from the protections of federal and state overtime laws.

It alleges that Wells Fargo willfully failed to record all the time its employees worked for the bank.

Perez has been working as a senior premier banker since 2023 but has been in other job titles at the bank since 2013.

The job duties of senior premier bankers include handling routine banking transactions, monitoring accounts of high-net-worth clients, and referring wealthy clients to financial advisers.

The lawsuit alleges that the primary duties of senior premier bankers include work that’s not exempt from overtime pay including routine transactions, approving wire transfers and balancing the bank vault.

Although senior premier bankers are eligible to earn commissions if they reach benchmarks, the commissions have not made up most of their earnings.

For Wells Fargo, the lawsuit marks the latest in a series of legal and regulatory actions around the bank.

Wells Fargo is currently working to remove an asset cap and other regulatory requirements after a series of banking scandals.

The bank has been working through issues around automobile lending, consumer deposit accounts, mortgage lending, retail sales practices and loss mitigation activities, among others.

Also read: Ex-bank exec gets six months of home confinement and probation for Wells Fargo fake-account scandal

Also read: Wells Fargo resolves shareholder suit with $1 billion payment

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