A former wealth manager at PNC Bank has sued her former employer for failing to protect her and others from a wealthy customer who was known to be a serial harasser of women.
According to a suit brought forth by Damara Scott, represented by Nancy Erika Smith of Smith Mullin in Montclair and Randy Davenport of the Law Office of Randy P. Davenport in Elizabeth, Patrick Pignatello’s history of preying on female and employees and customers, particularly African American women, was known by PNC executives who failed to take action to protect its employees.
The bank refused to close his accounts and, though the Glen Ridge branch occasionally banned him, Pignatello was routinely allowed back.
Pignatello was eventually arrested for sexual assault after assaulting Scott outside the entrance to the Glen Ridge branch, according to the suit filed in Essex County Superior Court. As stated in the suit, the sexual assault was a direct result of PNC executives’ refusal to address Pignatello’s actions appropriately because he had multiple accounts and could have referred more business to PNC.
“PNC Bank chose profits over the safety of its female employees,” said Smith in a statement. “The bank security manager admitted that the bank should have closed Pignatello’s account. Apparently, the bank thought that an investment client deserved a free pass to harass.”
According to the suit, Pignatello followed Scott out of the bank on Oct. 23, 2013 and made sexually suggestive comments that made her feel threatened and violated. He then approached her from behind, put his hands on her, pressed his groin into her backside, then drove away, the suit alleged. She reported the incident to PNC and local law enforcement.
According to Scott, she had never met Pignatello and was unaware of his history. Court filings recount a pattern of reportable harassment, including a time when Pignatello reportedly put his hands around the body of a female mortgage representative and rested his head on her breasts; at least one occasion where an employee had to reprimand him for being “too close” to her; and sexually charged remarks he would make the female employees such as asking “Are you going to service me today?”
Each of the above employees was African American.
“PNC Bank’s written policy explicitly states: ‘Sexual harassment by a manager, supervisor or other employee, customer, vendor or visitor will not be tolerated at PNC.’ This means all employees must take all appropriate measures to prevent sexual harassment by anyone,” Smith argued in court.
During Scott’s 18-year tenure at PNC, she became a wealth manager and spent one year in a dual role as acting branch manager.
“By disavowing responsibility for Scott’s pain and trauma after the assault, PNC contributed to ending an enormously promising career in banking and finance,” Smith said in a statement. “Employees deserve to feel safe from workplace harassment, no matter who initiates it.”
Pignatello died while shoveling snow in the December following the alleged assault.
In response to the allegations, PNC maintained that while “no allegation of sexual assault should be taken lightly … PNC has a long-standing commitment to providing a safe environment for our employees and customers to work and do business.”
The suit misrepresents the parking lot interaction between Scott and Pignatello, PNC spokesperson Marcey Zwiebel contends.
“It is unfortunate that plaintiff’s counsel has chosen to brand an elderly customer, now deceased, as a sexual predator who allegedly sexually assaulted the plaintiff when that will not be established by the evidence, including a video of the interaction between the customer and plaintiff,” said Zwiebel. “We look forward to presenting the evidence in court, which will make it clear what actually occurred.”