Senator says U.S. Labor Dept dismantled website for Wells Fargo workers

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By Sarah N. Lynch | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren
on Friday accused the U.S. Labor Department of dismantling a
website designed to help Wells Fargo workers file
whistleblower retaliation and other complaints against the bank,
and asked the department to reinstate it.

In her letter to Acting Labor Secretary Edward Hugler,
Warren said she noticed on Tuesday that the site
(www.dol.gov/wellsfargo) was gone and contained the words “Page
Not Found.”

Labor Department spokesman Steve Barr told Reuters the site
was removed on January 9, but did not comment further on the
reasons why it was taken down.

Former Labor Department Secretary Thomas Perez created the
special website last September, shortly after Wells Fargo was
ordered to pay $190 million in fines and customer restitution
after its high-pressure sales environment led to the opening of
as many as two million accounts that customers may not have
authorized.

Some of the bank’s employees filed whistleblower complaints
with the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, saying they had been fired for reporting the “gaming” of sales quotas by Wells Fargo, while others complained
that they were forced to work late.

“Taking down this website enables Wells Fargo to escape full
responsibility for its fraudulent actions and the department to
shirk its outstanding obligations to American workers,” wrote
Warren, who is a member of the Senate Committee on Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions, which oversees the Labor
Department.

When he launched the site, Perez pledged to Warren he would
conduct a top-to-bottom review of all the Wells Fargo complaints
the department had received to see how they were handled.

The website also offered assistance on issues including
proper pay for employees and workplace discrimination.

Reuters has reported on issues with some of the
whistleblower cases, including one involving a former Wells
Fargo employee who waited nearly five years to be interviewed
after telling OSHA she was fired for reporting the gaming.

On Friday, Warren also asked for an update on the Labor
Department’s review.

The findings have not been made public, but a person
familiar with the review said that OSHA’s San Francisco office,
which handled the bulk of the Wells Fargo complaints, faced a
particularly high caseload-to-staff ratio.

The review also found that OSHA does not have an effective
case management system to track what is going on in the field,
the person added.

Labor spokesman Barr declined to comment on that part of the
letter, saying he cannot discuss ongoing investigations.

Warren’s concerns could resurface on Feb. 7, when fast-food
executive Andrew Puzder is expected to appear for his
confirmation hearing to become the next labor secretary.

Puzder is already facing a backlash by some of his own
workers at CKE Restaurants, who allege they are victims of wage
theft.



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