Calif. Appeals Court Upholds Ruling for Bank in Call Center Compensation Case

A California Appeals Court has upheld a lower court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of a financial institution that was sued for not separately itemizing a bonus paid to its call center workers for fluently speaking languages other than English, ruling that the bank did not violate state law in how it compensated employees with this particular skillset.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Staublein v. Wells Fargo can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff was entitled to a 5% bonus on her hourly rate because she spoke Mandarin fluently. The language differential pay increase applied to all hours worked by employees who either worked in a call center dedicated language queue or who used a second language at least 50% of the time while at work. Employees must also pass a language exam and be approved for the increase by a manager.

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging that Wells violated state law in California because her base pay and language differential were not itemized separately on her paystub. The plaintiff filed a class-action lawsuit, seeking $13 million in damages and attorney’s fees.

In appealing the lower court’s ruling, the plaintiff argued that the additional 5% was an enhancement that should be itemized separately, that the 5% could be eliminated at any time, if the employee’s job situation changed, and because when looking at a paystub, employees would be unable to determine their regular hourly rate in addition to the 5% bonus they are receiving.

But the Appeals Court was not persuaded by any of the plaintiff’s arguments. ” … Wells Fargo’s wage statements comply with section 226(a)(9) as written,” the Appeals Court wrote. “We lack the authority to rewrite section 226(a) to add wage statement requirements that the Legislature did not contemplate.”

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