A Wisconsin bank employee lost her job after her employer discovered she'd shoplifted—40 years ago.
Wells Fargo last week fired Milwaukee resident Yolanda Quesada, 58, after she'd been working at the bank for five years. She had twice been arrested for shoplifting clothing from a department store as an 18-year-old fresh out of high school in 1972. (One of 12 children, she said she did it to have something to wear to her job at the time.) She received a $50 fine for the first offense; after the second, she was put on probation. She has not committed a crime since.
Speedy Pink Slip
"I just got the FBI report on Saturday in the mail,” Quesada, an award-winning customer service employee, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Monday, they said you're fired. They never let me say what happened, explain myself, nothing."
The bank has been performing background checks on existing employees since last year with the help of fingerprints employees are required to give them.
Wells Fargo spokesman Jim Hines explained that company policy forbids continuing the employment of anyone with a criminal record. The bank points to Section 19 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, with which it must comply, saying that it cannot have employees convicted of any criminal offense involving dishonesty, a breach of trust or money laundering, even if they entered into pretrial diversion of the case.
Hines told a Journal-Sentinel columnist that however harsh that sounds, "laws and regulations related to the employment of bank employees are designed to protect the interests of all consumers who put their trust in financial service companies." The bank also could be fined up to $1 million per day for not complying the rules.
The company also recently fired other employees for similarly old offenses. One 31-year-old woman was fired from the claims department after nearly three years with the company. Her offense? As a 17-year-old, she was with another girl who shoplifted from Kohl's, although she didn't take anything herself. (According to the Journal-Sentinel, records note the case against her was dismissed and that the charges "were not proven and have no legal effect.")
One way for the bank to avoid firing people for old cases or minor offenses would be to apply to the FDIC for a waiver. Employees also can ask for a waiver, but Radtke told the newspaper it can take 9 to 12 months to get a decision. Among the things considered are the nature of the offense, the offender's age at the time and evidence of rehabilitation since then.
Not Going Quietly
Meanwhile, Quesada has not lost hope she will get her job back.
“I think I should get it back because it's something I did 40 years ago. I paid for it. I've changed my life,” she told local TV stations. She also points out that she worked in customer service and never handled cash.
She's hired a lawyer, who wrote to Quesada's former employer asking that she be given her job back—or at least given severance pay.
"I'm waiting to hear back. We're prepared to fight if we have to," lawyer Sandra Radtke told the newspaper.
Would you fire someone after learning of a minor or nonviolent past offense?