Woman Fired from Wells Fargo After Background Check Reveals 1972 Crime

When it comes to using criminal history in employment decisions, how far back should background checks go? In the case of a former Milwaukee Wells Fargo employee, the company went as far back as 40 years, and held two charges from 1972 against her.

While criminal history should not be used as a blanket hiring measure, as this practice discriminates against minorities, when an individual is found to have previous charges, what is a company to do? Ideally, a company needs to examine how the charges relate to the job, and if the past crime does not, the applicant should still be in consideration.

For the former Wells Fargo employee, Yolanda Quesada, the criminal charges on her background check were from the early 1970s, when she shoplifted twice to get work-appropriate clothing, but has had no other charges since then. Quesada worked at Wells Fargo for five years in customer service, where she does not handle money, and earned several awards and certificates during her time there. The bank started looking into her background the week before she was terminated, but she was not aware such an investigation was going on, and upon receiving notification she was being terminated, she was not given a chance to explain herself.

Wells Fargo, on the other hand, was simply following changes to banking regulations, and regarding Quesada, a spokesman said:

“Because Wells Fargo is an insured depository institution, we are bound by federal law that generally prohibits us from hiring or continuing the employment of any person who we know has a criminal record involving dishonesty or breach of trust.”

Should the bank have taken such an absolutist stance regarding criminal convictions? Or should each employee’s background have been evaluated on a case-by-case basis? Should 40 years without criminal charges and performance awards on the job hold more weight than a crime in 1972? And, why weren’t these charges discovered originally before Quesada was hired?