San Antonio Employment Law Blog

Bank fires man for misdemeanor crime that took place 49 years ago

Many of us here in San Antonio may have tested the limits of bending the law back in our youths. Whether it was having a sip of beer under the age of 21, keeping the change after a cashier returned too much, or telling a fib, these decisions aren’t right, but they are nonetheless sometimes a part of growing up and hopefully we move past them. However, in one industry employers are currently digging up decades-old youthful indiscretions and firing employees for them.

We are talking about the banking industry where thousands of people have been fired since 2011 when new federal banking employment guidelines were put into place. The regulations were designed to rid banks of high-level employees who have committed transactional crimes such as mortgage or identity fraud, but many lower-level, hardworking employees are becoming casualties. For example, just recently Wells Fargo fired a 68-year-old Vietnam War veteran when it found out that back in 1963 he put a cardboard dime into a washing machine.

The federal regulations forbid banks from employing people who have been convicted of any crime involving dishonesty, money laundering or breach of trust. However, banks have reportedly misinterpreted the rules to include a variety of minor offenses and misdemeanor arrests.

While banks like Wells Fargo have blamed the unforgiving regulations for their firing of employees like the Vietnam vet, they have been criticized for not applying the rules to their top executives.

For example, in July Wells Fargo agreed to a multimillion dollar settlement to close allegations that it sought out Hispanic and black homeowners for sub-prime loans, but it admitted no wrongdoing and it does not appear that anyone lost their jobs.

Workers who have been terminated because of an old harmless crime like the man in this case can file a waiver with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to show that they are indeed fit to work at a bank, but the approval process takes up to six months.

Almost anyone would agree that firing someone from a job because of a harmless mistake he or she made 49 years earlier is not right. The legality of the banking industry terminations are quite complex because of the federal regulations in place. However, those who have been affected by these firings may be wise to seek an advocate.

Source: Des Moines Register, “Wells Fargo fires Des Moines worker for Laundromat incident 49 years ago,” Victor Epstein, Aug. 27, 2012

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