Wells Fargo accused of not paying overtime at shortstaffed US branches

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) – A Wells Fargo & Co employee filed a lawsuit on Thursday accusing the bank of depriving hundreds of its U.S. branch workers of overtime pay, as the bank faces an unprecedented campaign to unionize its workforce.

The proposed class action filed in San Francisco federal court claims Wells Fargo improperly classified “senior premier bankers” as management-level employees who are exempt from overtime pay under federal and state laws.

Senior premier bankers provide customer service, conduct transactions, and generate referrals to financial advisers. And they often work unpaid overtime because of chronic understaffing at Wells Fargo branches, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, penalties, and legal costs.

Wells Fargo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit was filed by Sabrina Perez, an employee at a Wells Fargo branch in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where workers recently filed a petition to hold a union election. Perez has been an outspoken advocate of unionizing, including being quoted in union press releases and news articles.

Michael Scimone, a lawyer for Perez, said Wells Fargo has consistently classified workers as exempt from overtime pay even though they are not managers and lack any decision-making authority.

“Companies like Wells Fargo should know better than to withhold overtime pay from workers like Ms. Perez,” Scimone said in a statement.

The proposed class of senior premier bankers across the U.S. could include hundreds of people, lawyers for Perez said.

The union petition in Albuquerque and another at a branch in Alaska are the first ever for Wells Fargo, and the first for any major U.S. bank in decades. Just 1% of workers in the financial industry are union members, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wells Fargo has said that it has made major investments in supporting its employees, including recent improvements to pay and benefits, and that it prefers having a “direct connection” with workers.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Deepa Babington)