DES MOINES, Iowa -- A man who was fired for a 49-year-old arrest for putting a cardboard dime in a laundry machine, has turned down an offer from Wells Fargo to return to his former job.
The nation's largest bank fired Richard Eggers, a former customer service representative, in July under a federal employment rule for financial institutions that was expanded after the 2007-08 financial crisis.
"If Wells Fargo had agreed to our requests I would have returned to work," said Eggers, 68. "But this isn't just about me -- I'm eligible for Social Security -- this is also about the thousands of working families with children which have been hurt by the same rules."
Employment attorneys estimate that as many as 3,000 low-level bank employees have lost their jobs under the rule, which was expanded to include mortgage originators. The rule prohibits employment of anyone convicted of dishonest behavior.
Wells Fargo confirmed Wednesday that it offered to rehire Eggers on Oct. 12 and return him to work in his former position and at his former annual salary of $29,795. He was cleared to return to work in the banking sector by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Sept. 26, after it approved his request for an employment waiver.
A record number of fired bank workers are pursuing such waivers. The FDIC, which handles the waivers, is on pace for a record 189 applications this year and received 151 in 2011. The agency averaged 50applications a year from 1995 to 2010.
Attorney Leonard Bates, who is representing Eggers for the Newkirk Law Firm in Des Moines, said his client sought to negotiate more humane terms for all Wells Fargo employees fired under the expanded employment rule. Those terms included the following:
-- Providing waiver application information to workers fired under the employment rule, as well as to workers facing new background checks to enable them to seek a waiver while still employed.
-- Automatically approving unemployment applications filed by workers fired under the rule.
-- Reclassifying workers fired under the rule to "temporary layoff" or "administrative leave" to allow them to escape the stigma of being fired when seeking new employment.
-- Lobbying for the rule to be modified to ease the burden on low-level employees.
Wells Fargo maintains that the terminations were forced on it by the expanded rule, which carries a $1 million-a-day fine for each violation.
The bank employs 13,000 people in the Des Moines area and 265,000 worldwide.
"It was our hope that Richard Eggers would accept our offer to return to work as a team member for Wells Fargo," said Wells Fargo spokeswoman Angela Kaipust. "Unfortunately, in rejecting our offer to return to work and demanding a number of unreasonable conditions, Mr. Eggers and his lawyer have not recognized our responsibility to apply the law equitably and fairly for all of our team members."
The tale of Eggers' firing has been reported by newspapers, TV news broadcasts, magazines and websites around the world the past two months, including the German magazine Der Speigel and the Guardian newspaper in England. He is scheduled to appear on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report."