In July, Wells Fargo fired 68-year-old employee Richard Eggers for slipping a cardboard dime into a laundromat washing machine in 1963. Eggers became a symbol of the unintended consequences of new banking regulations, aimed at purging mortgage lenders of employees with past convictions of fraud. Eggers has now been cleared to work again in the banking industry, reports The Des Moines Register, but he'll have to reapply to get his old job back.
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Congress passed a law mandating that mortgage loan originators perform background checks on employees, similar to ones required of banks insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. When Wells Fargo checked up on Eggers, who had been a customer service representative at the firm for seven years, it discovered that prank from his youth.
Almost 50 years ago, Eggers was arrested and convicted of "operating a coin changing machine by false means," and served two days in jail. The bank then fired him from his $29,795-a-year job.
"Eggers is a customer service representative. There's no way he can commit fraud in the banking industry," Eggers' attorney Leonard Banks told AOL Jobs. "It's not what the goal of the law was."
Casualties of the law do have a form of recourse, however. They can apply to get a waiver from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., permitting them to return to the industry. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. approved such a waiver for Eggers on Sept. 26, reports the Register, deciding that Eggers showed "satisfactory evidence of rehabilitation."
Kaipust said that she was pleased that the waiver process seemed to work in this case, but Eggers is frustrated that the bank has simply invited him to reapply, as opposed to just giving him his old job back.
"He feels like Wells Fargo is making him jump through another hoop, and he's not happy about it," Eggers attorney Leonard Bates told the Register. "Wells Fargo knows he wants his job back -- why don't they just offer it to him and to anyone who obtains a waiver? They said they had no choice but to fire all these people. Well, once they get the waiver, shouldn't Wells Fargo have no choice but to rehire them?"
Even if Eggers gets his old job back, Bates says that Eggers still intends to pursue the state and federal civil rights complaints that he filed in August. The complaints are against Eggers' former employer, the firm that did his criminal background check, and federal banking regulators, and they allege age, sex and disability discrimination. Bates says the law adversely impacts older workers, who are more likely to have been jailed for petty offenses.
"Eggers spent two days in jail for a crime that no one in today's era would ever spend a day in for," Bates says. Older workers are also more likely to have a conviction for check fraud, he notes, since people write fewer bad checks today, because they write fewer checks period.
Bates also suspects that Wells Fargo may have gone through with such an extreme purge because they realized the employees that they'd be firing were more likely to be disabled and taking time off under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Eggers' complaints opened up the possibility for a class action suit on behalf of all the low-level employees victimized by the same law. "He's interested in representing the other employees, whose stories you haven't heard yet," Bates says. "He's committed to continuing to help fight for others, who are trying to get their jobs back."
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