According to a March 20, 2009 NY Times article, a federal judge has ruled that Wells Fargo (formerly Wachovia) must reinstate a former reservist to his job as a financial adviser and pay him at least $1 million.
This ruling has particular implications for servicemen and women returning to their former jobs after serving in the military. According to employee rights advocates, the judge’s decision affirms that commission-based employees who return to their jobs after service must be compensated in a manner comparable to what they were earning when they left. This is believed to be the largest award in an employment case of this nature.
The case involved Michael Serricchio, now 35, who had worked as a financial adviser in Stamford, Conn., before spending more than two years on active duty with the Air Force Reserve beginning in September 2001. When he returned from service, his employer (Prudential Securities), had merged into Wachovia Securities which was recently purchased by Wells Fargo. At the time, Wachovia offered him a job paying only a $2,000-a-month advance on his commissions, much less than the $80,000 a year he was earning when he left for active duty.
The jury returned a verdict finding Wachovia had violated Serricchio’s rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, which requires employers to provide workers returning from military service a salary, status and seniority in line with where the were before they left.
The Judge was charged with determining the damages. She did so, affirming the jury’s verdict and awarding Mr. Serricchio about $400,000 in back pay and interest, $390,000 in punitive damages, and reimbursement for his legal fees, which are likely to top $500,000. His new salary will be $144,000 for one year, the court ordered, after which he will be back to working on commission.
This is yet another setback for Wachovia and a financial services industry that has been besieged by scandal, losses, bankruptcy and customer suits.
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