PNC ordered to pay ex-employee $2.4M in sexual harassment case

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PNC Financial Services Group must pay $2.4 million to a former employee who sued the bank for allegedly failing to protect her from being sexually harassed by a customer, a New Jersey jury ruled 8-0 on Tuesday.

Damara Scott, who was a wealth manager at the bank, claimed a client, Patrick Pignatello, sexually harassed her as she left her Glen Ridge, N.J., branch in October 2013, according to the lawsuit. Several complaints had been made to PNC’s corporate office about Pignatello, who was previously alleged to have groped other employees, according to Scott’s suit.

PNC’s bans of Pignatello from the premises were temporary, and the bank did not close his account because it wanted to keep doing business with him, Scott claimed.

The case brought in the Superior Court of New Jersey in Essex County will put more businesses on notice about their liability for sexual harassment committed in the workplace by clients, Nancy Erika Smith, an attorney for Scott, said in an interview. The damages awarded to Scott include lost past and future wages as well as emotional distress.

Smith said after the verdict was announced Tuesday that she planned to file another motion against the bank for fraudulent concealment, claiming PNC failed to turn over the bank’s security footage of the 2013 incident.

The filing could lead to a new trial and further damages awarded to Scott if a court finds PNC hid evidence.

“It’s really time for corporate America to take this seriously,” Smith said. “Everybody knows there is a way to do this. PNC did not do it.”

The $410.3 billion-asset bank plans to appeal the verdict, a spokesman said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

“PNC does not condone harassment of any kind,” the spokesman said. “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. 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.”

Pignatello was a wealthy business owner of a construction company. He died shortly after allegedly assaulting Scott and before the criminal case against him could be brought to trial, according to the New Jersey Law Journal.

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Sexual harassment in the professional workplace Legal & General Risk management Branch management PNC Financial Services Group New Jersey Women in Banking