Wells Fargo Settles Transgender Discrimination Suit in California

Marco “Marlo Kaitlin,” a former Wells Fargo employee, claims she was harassed and mocked to the point that brought her near to suicide. Her lawsuit against Wells Fargo was filed with Los Angeles Superior Court last July 14th. She alleged wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress on the part of Wells Fargo. She claims it all started with her decision to transition from a man to a woman.

Throughout the negotiations, part of Gallegos’ case was dismissed due to a long history of job performance issues and what the company referred to as absenteeism. Wells Fargo claimed that they had a strong commitment dating back 25 years to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. They also publicly stated that they believed discrimination of any kind against any group is wrong. They responded to Gallegos’ allegations by stating that the claims were wrong and inconsistent with how Wells Fargo treats its employees.

Facts of the Case According to the Lawsuit:

·       When Gallegos was hired for the Wells Fargo El Monte consumer call Center in August of 2010, she was male.

·       In December 2010, Gallegos started treatment to support the transition from male to female. Gallegos also began to wear women’s clothing more often.  

·       In May 2011, Gallegos’ boss told her she would “go to hell” for her behavior and that they were “unnatural” and an “affront to God.” Gallegos complained to another supervisor, but in response the supervisor receiving Gallegos’ complaint simply became extremely critical of her work. Gallegos’ attempts to transfer to another area at work (the Spanish speaking call center) were mocked, but she was given the new position. Yet colleagues immediately began using demeaning comments (i.e. referring to her as an “ugly woman” and nicknaming her “The Mask.”) Gallegos again lodged a complaint with a supervisor, but saw no appropriate response. She eventually changed her name from Marco to Marlo Kaitlin.

·       In spite of Marlo’s request that her co-workers use her new name, they continued to use her old name. Male co-workers consistently taunted her by greeting her with phrases meant to cause discomfort (i.e. “What’s up, man?” or “How you doing, man?”)

·       She was given permission to use the women’s restroom, but a female co-worker was upset. 

·       Gallegos was excluded from meetings and mandatory training sessions with supervisors.

·       Gallegos eventually sought out Human Resources to advise them that the hostile work environment was too much for her and that she often considered committing suicide.

·       Gallegos was fired in August 2014 by a supervisor who stated that they had received “word from above” that the company could no longer employ her.

The case was resolved on May 25th through a settlement, but terms were not divulged.

If you have questions about what constitutes a hostile work environment or if you need to discuss wrongful termination, please get in touch with one of the experienced southern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.