Wells Fargo pays $290,000 in sex harassment case

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Wells Fargo Bank has agreed to pay $290,000 to four tellers in Nevada to settle a same-sex sexual harassment case brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The lawsuit filed last year in U.S. District Court in Reno accused a female manager and female teller at a Reno bank branch of subjecting the four women to a sexually hostile work environment dating to December 2010.

The workers complained repeatedly beginning in January 2011 and one of the tellers quit in April 2011 because she no longer could tolerate the women's graphic sexual comments, gestures and images, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said.

The commission said the four women also were told that they should wear sexually provocative clothing to help attract customers and advance in the workplace.

"Sexual harassment is illegal, regardless of whether the harasser is female or male, the same or opposite gender as the victim," said Michael Baldonado, EEOC district director in San Francisco.

"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," he said in a statement.

Tony Timmons, an assistant vice president for Wells Fargo Bank N.A. in Las Vegas, said bank officials believe "this case constituted an isolated incident."

"Wells Fargo is committed to creating and promoting a welcoming workplace environment with zero tolerance to any forms of harassment among our team members," he said in an email Wednesday to The Associated Press.

The lawsuit said the inappropriate behavior included touching of the tellers' breasts and other parts of their bodies. It said they frequently were subjected to comments about — and images of — male genitalia, sexually obscene gestures and graphic discussions of sexual behavior and activities.

As part of the settlement agreement, Wells Fargo Bank N.A. also agreed to conduct annual anti-discrimination training, issue a memo from the district boss regarding procedures for reporting harassment complaints and interview any future employees who report harassment to ensure their complaints have been resolved in a timely fashion.

Wells Fargo Bank N.A., with its main offices in Sioux Falls, S.D., is the primary operating subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Co., which is headquartered in San Francisco.