Wells Fargo fires Wisconsin woman for 1972 shoplifting charges

If you've ever scoffed when someone has told you something will go on your permanent record, remember the story of Yolanda Quesada.

Quesada, 58, was fired last week from her job with Wells Fargo's mortgage unit in Milwaukee after a background check revealed she had been convicted of two minor shoplifting charges in 1972.

1972! Nixon was still president, and Quesada was 18 years old. But no matter, because for Wells Fargo, it's "once a thief, always a thief."

"I think there's more important things in my life than something I did 40 years ago," said Quesada, adding that Wells Fargo "never let me say what happened, explain myself, nothing" before firing her.

Changes to banking regulations meant Wells Fargo has had to run background checks on all mortgage team employees, including a fingerprint check with the FBI, a company spokesman told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"Because Wells Fargo is an insured depository institution, we are bound by federal law that generally prohibits us from hiring or continuing the employment of any person who we know has a criminal record involving dishonesty or breach of trust," the spokesman said.

A background check revealed that Quesada had been arrested twice in 1972 for shoplifting. She was fined $50 for the first offense and placed on one year of probation for the second. She says she stole clothing from a Milwaukee department store because she was one of 12 children in her household and needed something to wear for work. Quesada has not been convicted of any crimes since.

Excuse or no excuse, firing a 58-year-old woman for a minor criminal offense committed a lifetime ago seems pretty harsh. Sure, in this post-financial crisis world, Wells Fargo no doubt feels compelled to portray an image of utmost accountability to its customers. But being accountable also involves treating your workers with a modicum of common sense and empathy, and in that respect Quesada's story illustrates a way one of the nation's largest banks is falling short.

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