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Dhir v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 1, 2017

MAMTA DHIR, Plaintiff,
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. Defendants.


          Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Mamta Dhir, a former employee of Defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (“Wells Fargo”) brings this action for employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 56a-60(a)(1), the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (“ADAA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a), and the Connecticut Workers' Compensation Act (“CWCA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-290a. The Defendant has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. [Dkt. 56]. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

         II. Factual Background

         Wells Fargo is a nationwide, diversified financial services company that provides banking, insurance, investments, mortgage, and consumer and financial banking services. [See Dkt. 58-1, Affidavit of Jeffrey Bruneau (“Bruneau Aff.”) ¶ 3]. Plaintiff is female, was born in India, and is Asian (Indian). [Dkt. 58-3, Deposition of Mamta Dhir (“Dhir Dep.”) at 16, 20-21]. She moved to the United States in 1982. Id. at 21-22. Plaintiff became a store manager in Wells Fargo's Prospect, Connecticut store in August 2011. [Dkt. 21 ¶ 14; Dhir Dep. at 31, 80]. As store manager, Plaintiff was responsible for the store's performance, operations, and employees, and managed customer service, staffing, cash flow, sales, and compliance with Wells Fargo policies and procedures. [Bruneau Aff. ¶ 14; Dhir Dep. at 31-32]. Plaintiff had three direct reports: two Personal Bankers and the Service Manager, Joy Robertson. [Dhir Dep. at 34-35]. Tellers reported to Ms. Dhir through Ms. Robertson. [Dhir Dep. at 35].

         A. Policies and Procedures

         Wells Fargo maintains “Diversity and Inclusion, ” “Affirmative Action, EEO, & Diversity, ” anti-harassment, and “Nonretaliation” policies. [Bruneau Aff. ¶ 5; Dkt. 58-2 (“Handbook”) at ¶ 000004]. The Handbook sets forth the following hiring policy: “Our policy is that we do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, physical or mental disability, pregnancy, marital status, veteran status, or any other status protected by federal, state or local law.” [Id. at WF000029]. The Handbook also directs employees to contact Human Resources when the employee “need[s] advice or help in solving an issue that [he or she] ha[s] on the job.” [Id. at WF000008]. Should the employee have a dispute, he or she is advised to first resolve the issue with the direct manager, or if the dispute cannot be resolved, to then seek out the Dispute Resolution Resources referenced in the Handbook. [Id. at WF000046].

         Wells Fargo also maintains a “Code of Ethics & Business Conduct, ” which requires each employee to be “consistently honest and trustworthy in everything one does, ” and to “prepar[e] and maintain[] accurate records.” [Id. at WF000014-WF000021; Dhir Dep. at 46-49]. The code also prohibits “[f]alsification of any company or personal information” and gaming, or the “manipulation, misrepresentation, or both of sales or sales reporting in an attempt to receive compensation or to meet sales goals.” [Handbook at ¶ 000019-20; Dhir Dep. at 46-49, 53-56]. Managers in particular are expected “to exemplify the highest standards of ethical behavior, ” “[t]o ensure that team members understand that business results are never more important than ethical conduct and compliance with applicable law and Wells Fargo's policies, ” and “[t]o ingrain the principles of the Code and compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and Wells Fargo's policies into [their] business unit's practices.” [Handbook at ¶ 000022; Dhir Dep. at 57-58, 65-66]. Defendant's “Immediate Dismissal” policy states that (1) violating the ethics code; (2) falsification of records, including “[e]ntering false sales or referrals on a sales tracking system, ” or (3) gaming, “may result in immediate termination of employment.” [Handbook at ¶ 000065; Dhir Dep. at 62-63].

         At the time Plaintiff was employed, Wells Fargo ran a “Teller Referral” program that encouraged tellers to (1) uncover a customer's potential need for a financial product or service and, if the customer was amendable, (2) refer him or her to a Personal Banker to discuss the product or service further. [Bruneau Aff. ¶¶ 6-8; Dhir Dep. at 50-53, 68-75; Dkt. 58-4 (“Sales Quality Manual”) at ¶ 000080].

         If the referral resulted in a sale of a product or service, the teller would receive credit, and managers would be evaluated in part based on the number of credits tellers earned. [Bruneau Aff. ¶¶ 9-10]. The program was governed by a Sales Integrity Policy, which prohibited “manipulations and/or misrepresentations of sales or referrals and reporting of sales or referrals in an attempt to receive compensation or to meet sales goals that is inconsistent with customer needs.” [Sales Quality Manual at ¶ 000072]. Sales integrity violations could “result in disciplinary action, up to and including disqualification from participation in incentive compensation plans and termination of employment.” Id.

         An “unearned referral” occurs when a teller is given credit for a referral that did not result from uncovering a customer's potential need for a product or service. [Bruneau Aff. ¶ 11; Dhir Dep. at 50-53; Sales Quality Manual at ¶ 000080]. For instance, if a teller obtains a credit for a sale when the teller had no contact with the customer, this credit would be “unearned, ” and the behavior would be considered impermissible “gaming.” Id. Other types of “inappropriate” sales behavior described in the Sales Quality Manual included: (1) “[s]ubmitting a referral after directing a customer who came into the store with the intent to purchase a product or service, even if other products or services are discussed before the customer is directed to the banker”; (2) “[b]ankers supplying tellers with customer information to input as a referral when the teller did not have any contact with the customer”; (3) “[r]esubmitting a referral without having an additional sales conversation and without regaining consent from the customer”; (4) “[r]eceiving referral credit for yourself or any other store personnel (e.g., a teller cannot refer another teller to a banker for referral credit)”; (5) “[a] teller submitting a referral after translating for a customer or banker without uncovering a need for a product or service”; and (6) “[e]ntering teller referrals for customers at a Wells Fargo at Work offsite event.” [Sales Quality Manual at ¶ 000080].

         Plaintiff's compensation as Store Manager included a “quarterly incentive compensation opportunity, ” which was based, in part, on teller contributions. [Bruneau Aff. ¶ 19; Dhir Dep. at 49-52, 76; Dkt. 58-7 (“Compensation Plan”) at DWF000608]. Plaintiff was also eligible for a “coach's bonus” of 15 percent of store team members' incentive compensation payments, which was also based on teller credits. [Bruneau Aff. ¶ 19; Dhir Dep. at 76-78; Compensation Plan at DWF000608].

         B. Plaintiff's Disability

         On or around August 12, 2013, Plaintiff tripped while at work, injuring her shoulder, neck, knees, and right ankle. [Dkt. 21 at ¶ 16; Dhir Dep. at 134-36]. Plaintiff reported her injury to Wells Fargo the next day, and took a day and a half off to seek medical treatment. [Dkt 21 ¶ 17; Dhir Dep. at 137-38]. Thereafter, Wells Fargo permitted the Plaintiff to go to physical therapy appointments two to three days a week during her workday. [Dhir Dep. at 139-40]. Wells Fargo also accommodated Plaintiff's lifting restrictions. [Dhir Dep at 143-44]. Plaintiff attended therapy through September and October 2013, and Defendants claim that she complained to Mr. Bruneau that her doctors “were forcing [her] to start therapy again, ” to which Plaintiff claims Mr. Bruneau responded, “they want you to continue so they can make money.” [Dkt. 21 ¶ 22; Dhir Dep. at 142]. Plaintiff also claims that Mr. Bruneau and Area President Kent McClun asked her how long she would require treatment. [Dkt. 21 ¶ 21; Dhir Dep. at 262-64].

         C. Informal Warning

         In mid-2013, a teller complained to Wells Fargo that the Plaintiff had discriminated against him because of his religion. [Bruneau Aff. ¶ 20; Dhir Dep. at 146-53; Kent Aff. ¶ 3]. Employee relations investigated this claim, but determined that the Plaintiff had not discriminated against him. [Bruneau Aff. ¶ 21; Dhir Dep. at 146-62; Kent Aff. ¶ 4]. During the course of the investigation, however, Plaintiff's subordinates described her behavior as “threatening, condescending, horrifying, and degrading.” [Bruneau Aff. ¶¶ 22-23; Dhir Dep. at 152-54; Dkt. 58-10]. Wells Fargo found these claims credible, and concluded that Plaintiff's “poor judgment and unprofessional behavior” violated its Professionalism and Code of Ethics and Business Conduct policies. [Bruneau Aff. ¶¶ 22-23; Dhir Dep. at 152-54; Dkt. 58-10]. Plaintiff was given an “Informal Warning” based on these findings.

         D. Referrals

         During the course of the investigation into the religious discrimination claim, tellers told Employee Relations that the store had been submitting unearned referrals. [Kent Aff. ¶ 5; Bruneau Aff. ¶ 24; Dhir Dep. at 149-50]. Plaintiff separately informed Wells Fargo District Manager Jeffrey Bruneau that her subordinates were submitting unearned referrals. [Dkt. 21 ¶¶ 24, 26-27; Dhir Dep. at 162-63]. Mr. Bruneau asked Plaintiff to let him handle the matter because if Plaintiff formally reported the unearned referrals, the report might be perceived as retaliation for ...

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