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PNC Bank to pay up in sexual harassment case

An Essex County Superior Court jury awarded former PNC Bank wealth manager Damara Scott $2.4 million in compensatory damages Monday after determining that PNC Bank failed to protect her from a customer well known to managers as a serial harasser of women, particularly African-American women.

The customer, Patrick Pignatello, was arrested for criminal sexual contact in October 2013 after following Scott out of the Glen Ridge PNC branch, putting his hands on her, and bumping his groin into her backside. Before touching her, he reportedly said, “I offer full services and I aim to please,” and muttered vulgarities.

Court filings recount that Pignatello had a pattern of reportable harassment, including a time he 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?”

Nancy Erika Smith

Smith

The bank took no action to bar Pignatello after the incident with Scott, including after his arrest. He died prior to arraignment.

Scott was represented by Nancy Erika Smith and Neil Mullin of the Montclair firm Smith Mullin, and co-counsel Randy Davenport of Elizabeth.

“The jury recognized that PNC had failed to provide a safe workplace for Ms. Scott. We hope PNC will now take the steps to eliminate harassment throughout the company,” said Smith in a statement. “One of the great things about our justice system is that citizens can sit in judgment on powerful corporations and hold them accountable. Women are tired of employers who tolerate sexual harassment.”

A spokesperson for PNC provided the following comment:

“PNC does not condone harassment of any kind. We have a long-standing history of providing a safe workplace for our employees, and robust policies and procedures to help ensure that we continue to do so,” the spokesperson said. “We are disappointed by the verdict, even though the jury expressly found that this was not a case where punitive damages were appropriate. We intend to appeal based on errors made by the court.”

Gabrielle Saulsbery
Albany, N.Y. native Gabrielle Saulsbery is a staff writer for NJBIZ and the newest thing in New Jersey. You can contact her at gsaulsbery@njbiz.com.

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