Cara Williams; Johnita Slaughter; Mandre Miller; James Collier; Teresa Jones; Chance Kenyon; Anthony Williams; Dwann Jones; Leroy Fields-Campbell; Barbara Hansen, individually and on behalf of a putative class of similarly situated individuals Plaintiffs - Appellants
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Defendant-Appellee
Submitted: October 16, 2017
from United States District Court for the Southern District
of Iowa - Des Moines
SMITH, Chief Judge, MURPHY and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.
appellants are ten African Americans and Latinos who sued
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. ("Wells Fargo") on behalf of
a putative class, alleging discriminatory employment
practices in violation of Title VII and the Iowa Civil Rights
Act. They seek reversal of the district
court's grant of summary judgment in favor of
Wells Fargo. Specifically, the appellants argue that the
court erred in concluding that they failed to establish a
prima facie case of disparate impact. They also challenge the
magistrate judge's order granting in part and denying in part
their Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) motion seeking
additional time for discovery. We affirm.
law bars "any person who has been convicted of any
criminal offense involving dishonesty or a breach of
trust" from becoming or continuing as an employee of any
institution insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation (FDIC). 12 U.S.C. § 1829(a)(1)(A). More
commonly known as Section 19, the statute does not consider
the age of the convictions when applying the employment bar.
See Id. § 1829(2)(A). In other words, an
individual with a one-month-old disqualifying conviction is
equally barred from FDIC-institution employment as a person
with a thirty-year-old conviction. Violations of Section 19
can result in daily fines of up to $1, 000, 000 per day, five
years' imprisonment, or both. Id. §
1829(b). Disqualified persons may apply for employment
waivers with the FDIC. Banking institutions wishing to
hire-or to continue to employ-Section 19-disqualified
individuals also may sponsor waiver applications. No
disqualified individual may begin or continue employment with
the FDIC-insured institutions until after obtaining a waiver.
Fargo is an FDIC-insured bank. Job applicants to Wells Fargo
are required to answer whether they had a conviction of a
crime involving dishonesty.Starting in 2010, Wells Fargo
instituted a fingerprint-based background check for its
current and potential employees. The background check returns
all criminal convictions, regardless of the age of the crime.
In 2012, Wells Fargo re-screened its entire Home Mortgage
division. Wells Fargo asked its employees for authorization
to re-screen and again asked the employees to answer whether
they had convictions involving crimes of dishonesty. The bank
then terminated the Home Mortgage employees verified to have
Section 19 disqualifications. Wells Fargo did not inform the
terminated employees of the availability of Section 19
waivers, and it did not offer to sponsor waivers for any
individual. Between December 2011 and March 2013, Wells Fargo
terminated at least 136 African Americans, 56 Latinos, and 28
white employees because of Section 19 disqualifications.
Between February 2013 and November 2015, Wells Fargo also
withdrew at least 1, 350 conditional job offers to African
Americans and Latinos and 354 non-minorities after the
background check revealed these individuals had disqualifying
appellants sued, alleging race-based employment
discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, as well as violations under the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
They alleged that Wells Fargo's policy of summarily
terminating or withdrawing offers of employment to any
individual with a Section 19 disqualification discriminated
against them. Prior to merits discovery, Wells Fargo moved
for summary judgment. The appellants filed a motion
requesting additional time to conduct discovery under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d), and the magistrate judge
partially granted and partially denied the motion. The
district court then granted summary judgment to Wells Fargo,
concluding that the appellants failed to establish a prima
facie case under any theory of employment discrimination
pursuant to either federal or state law.
appellants now contend that the district court erred in
granting summary judgment to Wells Fargo, arguing that the
district court misapplied disparate-impact law. Additionally,
they challenge the magistrate judge's ruling on their
Rule 56(d) motion.
Title VII Disparate Impact
at issue in this case is whether the appellants had
established a prima facie case of Title VII disparate impact,
and if they had, whether Wells Fargo failed to show a
business necessity defense. The appellants contend that Wells
Fargo refused to adopt the alternative practices of giving
advance notice of the need for a waiver, granting leave to
seek a waiver, and providing direct sponsorship of a waiver.
They argue that Wells Fargo sometimes took these steps, and
that if the company had done so uniformly, then the
alternative practice would have reduced the disparate impact
caused by the summary exclusions. On this record, we
review grants of summary judgment de novo. Torgerson v.
City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011)
(en banc) (citation omitted). "Summary judgment is
proper 'if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure
materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'"
Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2)). We view facts
in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and we
make no determinations of credibility; nor do we weigh the
evidence or draw inferences, as those functions belong to the
jury. Id. (citations omitted). However, "[m]ere
allegations, unsupported by specific facts or evidence beyond
the nonmoving party's own conclusions, are insufficient
to withstand a motion for summary judgment." Menz v.