Work it Out Blog

OSHA: Wells Fargo Must Pay $5.4 Million to Terminated Whistleblower

Jun 06, 2017

Wells Fargo has been ordered to pay a former manager $5.4 million and to reinstate his employment after he was terminated in violation of whistleblower laws.  The whistleblower was a manager in Wells Fargo’s wealth management group.  While he had generally received good performance reviews he was terminated suddenly in 2010 after reporting several incidents of bank, mail, and wire fraud to a bank ethics hotline.  OSHA investigated the manager’s termination and determined that his reporting of the fraud was “at least a contributing factor” in his termination. 

The $5.4 million awarded to the whistleblower is the largest individual sum ever awarded through OSHA’s whistleblower program.  It is intended to encompass back pay, compensatory damages, and legal fees.  Wells Fargo has expressed an intention to appeal the ruling.

In addition to the unprecedented $5.4 million award, this case highlights a somewhat confusing aspect of the whistleblower laws – why would OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, be ruling on a bank fraud whistleblower case?  This case notably involves no aspects of occupational health or safety.  However, OSHA is the government entity tasked with enforcing whistleblower protections.  The OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the provisions of more than twenty whistleblower statutes.  In addition to occupational safety and health whistleblowers, the OSHA program also protects whistleblowers in the areas of environmental, health insurance reform, securities, financial reform, and consumer product laws, among many others.

Employers should remain aware that an employee who is reporting a safety concern, an injury, or any other protected activity is protected by the OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program.  This means an employer cannot retaliate, or take any adverse action against an employee because they reported a violation.  For more information about the OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program and the protected activities, please contact Michelle Reese or any of Day Ketterer’s employment attorneys. 

The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice for any purpose. This blog is not intended to present an exhaustive summary of all applicable laws, or to take the place of legal advice.  If you have any questions regarding the law, please contact us for assistance.