Williams v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 16-4372 (8th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Federal law bars “any person who has been convicted of any criminal offense involving dishonesty or a breach of trust” from becoming or continuing as an employee of any institution insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), 12 U.S.C. 1829(a)(1)(A) (Section 19) without regard to the age of the convictions. Disqualified persons may apply to the FDIC for waivers. Banking institutions may sponsor waiver applications. Wells Fargo, an FDIC-insured bank, requires job applicants to answer whether they had a conviction of a crime involving dishonesty. In 2010, Wells Fargo instituted a fingerprint-based background check for current and potential employees, which returns all criminal convictions. In 2012, Wells Fargo re-screened its entire Home Mortgage division, then terminated employees verified to have Section 19 disqualifications, without informing them of the availability of waivers or offering to sponsor waivers. Wells Fargo terminated at least 136 African Americans, 56 Latinos, and 28 white employees because of Section 19 disqualifications, and withdrew at least 1,350 conditional job offers to African Americans and Latinos and 354 non-minorities. In a suit, alleging race-based employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the court granted Wells Fargo summary judgment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Even if Wells Fargo’s policy of summarily terminating or not hiring any disqualified individual creates a disparate impact, the bank’s decision to comply with the statute’s command is a business necessity under Title VII.