A $2.4 million verdict awarded by the Essex County Superior Court in New Jersey to a former PNC Bank employee should serve as a reminder to businesses that their duty to protect workers from harassment extends beyond the acts of company employees, the employee’s attorney said.
Former Glen Ridge PNC Bank branch wealth manager Damara Scott claimed she was sexually assaulted in the vestibule outside the bank entrance in October 2013 by Patrick Pignatello, a customer who is now deceased. Scott claimed Pignatello pressed his crotch into her buttocks and rubbed against her. She reported the incident to police who charged Pignatello with criminal sexual contact. Weeks later, Pignatello suffered a heart attack and died.
Scott claims that Pignatello visited the branch regularly and was known to grope and harass female employees and customers. At one point, management temporarily banned him from the branch. But management never closed his accounts. PNC claims it was never aware of the incidents.
The trial lasted three weeks, after which the jury found that Scott was, in fact, assaulted by the customer, and ordered PNC Bank to pay the former employee $300,000 in past lost wages, $500,000 in future lost wages, $800,000 for past emotional distress and $800,000 for future emotional distress.
PNC Bank issued a statement saying it was disappointed by the jury’s verdict and would be filing an appeal.
Workplace sexual harassment has been the topic of national conversations since the #MeToo movement provided victims a platform to reclaim their voice and seek justice for the wrongs committed against them. If you think you have been a victim of workplace sexual harassment, it is important to seek the immediate advice of an employment lawyer. Contact Larry Golston, Lauren Miles or Leon Hampton, lawyers in our firm’s Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section to discuss a possible claim.