Last month, Richard Eggers, a 68-year old man, made national headlines for being fired from his call center job at Wells Fargo because a background check revealed a criminal offense that took place in 1963. The offense in question is of interest, as it involves Eggers using a cardboard cutout of a dime to pay a laundry machine, eventually landing him with a fraud charge and a few days in jail. Since this mishap, he has been on the straight and arrow, using real dimes and has not had so much as a traffic violation.
However, due to stricter regulations on bank and mortgage employees, Eggers’ criminal record was uncovered and Wells Fargo let him go. Angela Kaipust, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman, stated, “We don’t have discretion to grant exceptions in situations like this. Once we find out someone has a criminal history of dishonesty or breach of trust, we can no longer employ them.”
Eggers wasn’t the only casualty of the stricter guidelines. Yolanda Quesada was fired from Wells Fargo in May of this year after her background check uncovered a shoplifting charge from 1972. She claims she was never allowed to explain what happened; she had stolen clothes to wear to work in order to help out her low-income family of 12.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is an independent agency that was established by Congress to insure deposits, examine and supervise financial institutions for safety, consumer protection and manage receiverships. The FDIC issued the new background check guidelines in an attempt to remove executives and mid-level employees who are guilty of crimes like identity fraud or mortgage fraud, but these guidelines are now being applied to all bank employees out of the banks’ fear of being slapped with a fine of up to $1 million a day for non-compliance.
The FDIC does have a waiver process for those employees who were terminated under the new guidelines, however it is both time consuming and costly. The waiver process doesn’t apply in Eggers case though, as only individuals who served less than 24 hours of jail time are eligible, he spent roughly 48.
Eggers has filed his suits against Wells Fargo, the background check company who conducted the check, and federal banking regulators. He filed the suits with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. In light of the EEOC’s recent guidance on employer’s use of criminal records, it will be interesting to see how they respond. It’s unfortunate that the employer and the background screening company are being listed in the lawsuit due to the fact that they were just following guidelines set forth by a federal entity, the FDIC, and really should not be blamed. Basically, we have two bureaucracies with contrasting viewpoints: The FDIC wants stricter enforcement with regards to criminal records, while the EEOC wants employers to take stronger caution when evaluating them.