On May 31, 2011, the Justice Department's Disability Rights Section and Office of the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California entered into a comprehensive settlement agreement with Wells Fargo & Company. Under the Agreement, Wells Fargo will pay up to $16 million to compensate individuals who experienced discrimination in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when trying to call Wells Fargo, access Wells Fargo's services, or visit one of Wells Fargo's retail stores.
Wells Fargo owns or operates almost 10,000 retail stores and 12,000 ATMs located throughout the United States. Wells Fargo offers a wide variety of financial services, including personal and commercial banking, mortgages, brokerage, insurance, and investments. The Department initiated its investigation after receiving complaints under Title III of the ADA filed by numerous individuals who are deaf, are hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities. The complainants alleged that Wells Fargo would not do business with them over the phone using a telecommunications relay service. Instead, the individuals were directed to call a TTY/TDD line that asked them to leave a message, which went unanswered. The Department determined that these actions violated the ADA. The Department also received a variety of other complaints alleging ADA violations by Wells Fargo, including the failure to provide financial documents to people who are blind or have low vision in alternate formats (e.g., Braille or large print), the failure to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services upon request for in-person meetings between Wells Fargo staff and individuals who are deaf, and the failure to remove barriers to access for individuals with mobility disabilities. The settlement agreement provides for resolution of all complaints alleging violation of the ADA in connection with Wells Fargo's financial services and retail facilities based on events occurring before May 31, 2011.
The settlement agreement requires Wells Fargo to accept calls made through a relay service by customers who are deaf, are hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities; remove physical barriers to access identified at its retail stores; provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified sign language or oral interpreters, computer-assisted real-time transcription, qualified readers, and documents in alternate formats (Braille, large print, audio format, accessible electronic format) to persons with disabilities when necessary to ensure effective communication throughout its financial services and programs; ensure that its ATMs and websites are accessible to individuals with disabilities; and remedy all other instances of discrimination - including architectural barriers and operational issues -- under Title III of the ADA that are identified during the claims process. In addition, the agreement requires Wells Fargo to make $1 million in charitable donations to non-profit organizations that will assist veterans with disabilities caused by injuries sustained while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan to live independently in the community. Wells Fargo will also pay a $55,000 civil penalty to the United States Treasury.
updated May 31, 2011