Lawyer: Bank wrongful-termination suit headed for trial

tbarton@islandpacket.comJuly 27, 2013 

A wrongful-termination lawsuit filed against Wells Fargo by seven former employees is likely headed to trial, according to the plaintiffs' attorney.

"We are trying to get ready for trial as soon as we can," said Hilton Head Island lawyer John Bowen, who is representing the seven former Bluffton branch employees and branch manager Robert M. Stroud. "There is a great deal of discovery scheduled -- including depositions -- during the month of August."

A trial date has not been set, but it probably will be scheduled for later this year, Bowen said.

The seven were among nine employees fired in July 2012 after a Wells Fargo district manager accused them of violating company ethics rules. The employees counter that they were fired to cover up cocaine use and sexual harassment by district manager Scott Zardenetta.

The bank denies the allegations and said it did nothing illegal by terminating the nine employees -- most of the branch's staff.

Plaintiffs include former Bluffton branch employees Deborah Govan, Erin Caldwell, LaTeshia Barnwell, Zylthia Atkins, Gregory Cherewko, Linda Gillet and Maria Olivia Dulaney. They were fired for receiving "credits" for opening new accounts that Zardenetta claimed they didn't earn, according to the suit.

The employees contend the procedures they followed to get credits were used at other Wells Fargo branches. The suit says Zardenetta and bank investigator Chuck Owens devised an excuse to fire them after Zardenetta's alleged misconduct was reported to the human resources department by Stroud.

Stroud also was fired and is suing the bank, Zardenetta and Owens in a separate case in U.S. District Court. His case is scheduled for trial on or after May 5, 2014, according to online court records.

Attorneys for Wells Fargo, Owens and Zardenetta have not yet responded to an offer by the seven former employees to resolve the wrongful-termination suit for about $1.5 million, according to Bowen and court records.

Attempts Thursday and Friday to reach those attorneys were unsuccessful.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

Related content:

Fired Wells Fargo employees seek $1.48 million in termination suit: Feb. 4, 2013

Wells Fargo responds to suit, seeks dismissal: Dec. 6, 2012

Former branch manager sues Wells Fargo: Nov. 26, 2012

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