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Wells Sued for Pregnancy Discrimination

Wells Sued for Pregnancy DiscriminationWendy Fitzgerald says harassment started in 1998 interview

April 3, 2006

By LISA D. BURDEN
Washington, D.C., correspondent for MortgageDaily.com

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage has been sued by a former residential mortgage manager who claims that, while employed by the company, she was punished for becoming pregnant.Wendy Fitzgerald has filed a lawsuit in Connecticut’s federal district court asking the court to award her $20 million dollars because of the treatment she received at the hands of her male supervisor.

Fitzgerald said that her former boss at Wells violated state and federal laws regarding sex, gender and pregnancy and took away a lucrative territory because she became pregnant.

Kevin Waetke, a spokesman for Wells Fargo, in an e-mailed statement declined to comment because of the company’s policy of not discussing matters in litigation. “I can however, confirm that Wells Fargo Home Mortgage is an Equal Opportunity Employer,” he wrote.

Fitzgerald claimed in court documents that the harassment started at her job interview in 1998. She said she was asked “intrusive, embarrassing and improper personal questions” by the man who later supervised her work while at Wells. She claimed that during the interview the supervisor told her a story about a female manager who “was never the same after she had kids.” According to Fitzgerald, he also said that “women change when they have kids, they are never as sharp as they were.”

Fitzgerald went to work for Wells in 1999. As an area manager, she oversaw six branches and supervised 50 sales personnel in several different areas including reverse mortgages and subprime. In some years, her total income rose to more than $500,000.

Single when she applied for the job in 1998, Fitzgerald married in 2000 and became pregnant in 2003. She said she feared telling her supervisor about the pregnancy because of his “derogatory and humiliating comments about women in management positions who have children.”

The pregnancy was characterized as “high risk,” resulting in complications and several hospital stays. Fitzgerald claimed that she was required to work 50 hours a week in spite of the hospital stays and that the supervisor refused to assign other employees to assist her. In 2004, Fitzergerald’s sales area territory was reduced, resulting in a loss of 50 percent of her income. She left the company in 2005.

Fitzgerald said that, even with the pregnancy, her work evaluations indicated that she often met or exceeded her targets and performed efficiently.

She said that Wells Fargo refused to do anything about the situation in spite of her complaints about the man’s behavior.


Lisa D. Burden is a legal analyst for MortgageDaily.com and holds a law degree from the University of Maryland. She is currently a freelance journalist who previously wrote for Institutional Investor publications and the Baltimore Daily Record.

e-mail Lisa at: burdenlisa@yahoo.com

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