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Wells Fargo Settles EEOC Same-sex Sexual Harassment Lawsuit for $290,000

Bank Will Pay Four Females Who Alleged Female Manager Sexualized Workplace

RENO, Nev. - Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. will pay $290,000 to four female bank tellers and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC lawsuit charged that a female manager and another female bank teller at a Wells Fargo branch in Reno, Nev., regularly subjected the four women to graphic sexual comments, gestures and images. The harassment included inappropriate touching and a suggestion that the bank tellers wear sexually provocative clothing to attract customers and to advance in the workplace. The civil rights agency found that although the offensive conduct was reported to management several times, Wells Fargo failed to act quickly to stop it, and one employee felt compelled to quit rather than endure the ongoing harassment.

"I am happy I stood up for my rights," one of  the harassment victims said. "I don't want any other woman to think she has to put up with sexual harassment simply because it is done by another woman."

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment and requires employers to take prompt action to investigate and to stop the behavior after they receive complaints. After an investigation by EEOC Investigator Carlos Rocha and first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 13-CV-00528-RCJ (WGC)) in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

In addition to the monetary relief for the four women, the two-year consent decree ordered today applies to all branch locations within the Sierra Mountains District. Under it, Wells Fargo agreed to take preventative steps, including annual anti-discrimination training; issuing a memo from the district head on procedures for reporting harassment complaints; reporting to EEOC concerning discrimination complaints; and, when deemed prudent, interviewing employees who have reported harassment to ensure their complaints have been resolved in a timely fashion after the completion of an internal investigation. Also, the company will place a disciplinary notice in the personnel record of the former branch manager concerning his failure to address the harassment.

EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, "EEOC's investigation showed that Wells Fargo could have immediately nipped this behavior in the bud. We are hopeful that the settlement terms will ensure a quicker response going forward."

Michael Baldonado, EEOC San Francisco District Director, added, "Sexual harassment is illegal, regardless of whether the harasser is female or male, the same or opposite gender as the victim. When employees report a manager's or co-worker's inappropriate behavior, employers must immediately investigate the claims and take steps to rectify the situation."

According to company information, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., with main offices in Sioux Falls, S.D., is the primary U.S. operating subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Company, which is headquartered in San Francisco, and employs 264,900 people nationwide.

Preventing harassment through systemic enforcement and targeted outreach is one of six national priorities identified by the agency's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at