The bank has categorized the employees as “essential” and won’t let them work from home. “I’m terrified,” one employee said.
Even as local and state governments around the country request that businesses let their employees work from home to help contain the growing threat of the coronavirus, Wells Fargo has labeled its workers at call centers, complaint departments, and retail banks as “essential” and is demanding that they continue to come to work against their wishes.
The situation grew especially tense last Tuesday, when multiple California counties issued shelter-in-place orders and directed all non-essential employees to stay at home. That same day, the San Francisco bank’s head of consumer lending, Mary Mack, told employees in her division, in an email obtained by VICE, that the “branch, contact center, and operations center employees are considered ‘essential’ and exempt from the counties’ orders.”
VICE spoke with 11 current or recently departed Wells Fargo employees in six different states about the mandate. While banks have qualified under California and other states’ definition of “essential services,” Wells Fargo employees who work at the call centers, in complaints departments, and in collections have questioned whether that should include their jobs. The employees—who requested to withhold their names out of fear of reprisal—said they feared they might be exposing themselves and others to the highly contagious virus but felt pressure to go to work at Wells Fargo’s offices, which they described as crowded. The employees hold some of the lowest-paid jobs at the country’s fourth-largest bank. Often, they work under contractor or temporary status.
Those among them who have expressed their concerns with superiors have largely felt dismissed or ignored, they said.
“They refuse to let anyone work from home in our department,” said one call-center employee in Wells Fargo’s downtown Des Moines offices. “I have about 250 people on my floor. I’m terrified that I am going to get COVID-19 because of their greed.”