The Justice Department has created a claims process to distribute up to $16 million to compensate individuals with disabilities whom were discriminated against by Wells Fargo, one of the nation’s largest banking institutions.
The claims process is a part of a settlement, announced May 31, between the Justice Department and Wells Fargo in response to complaints from people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities that the bank refused to accommodate them in its telephone services. Instead, Wells Fargo allegedly told these individuals to call and leave a message at an alternate phone line that regularly went unanswered.
“The department is aware that other major financial institutions are refusing to communicate with individuals with disabilities who use relay services to communicate by telephone,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in a news release. “These refusals are discrimination, and other financial institutions must follow Wells Fargo’s example and accept relay calls immediately.”
As part of the settlement, Wells Fargo must create a reliable telephone service for people who are deaf, hard of hearing and have speech disabilities and provide auxillary aids and other services to accommodate them in its financial services. It must also remove access barriers at its physical locations, hire an ADA coordinator, create an ADA complaint line and provide staff training for working with people with disabilities.
Wells Fargo will also contribute $1 million in charitable donations to nonprofit organizations assisting veterans with disabilities and pay a $55,000 civil penalty.
Wells Fargo has nearly 10,000 retail banking, brokerage and mortgage stores, as well as more than 12,000 ATMs, nationwide.