PNC Bank in New Jersey was ordered to pay a former employee $2.4 million for continuing to do business with a white male customer known to harass Black women.
Damara Scott, who is Black, sued the Glen Ridge bank branch and customer Patrick Pignatello whom she said sexually harassed her outside the branch. Scott said when she left the bank one day in October 2013, Pignatello followed her to her car, verbally harassing her and then sexually grinding against her from behind, according to NBC News.
Police charged Pignatello, who was well known in the affluent community as “Mr. Glen Ridge,” with sexual assault for the incident, according to court documents filed by Scott’s lawyers. Pignatello died in December 2013 of natural causes, NBC News reported.
Scott, who had worked at the bank for more than a decade, told bank officials about the incident and was hurt when they refused to take action to keep Pignatello from coming back after the assault. This week, an Essex County Superior Court jury agreed with Scott, finding that PNC Bank failed to protect Scott from Pignatello, even after knowing his past history of harassment.
PNC Bank told NBC News that the bank was “disappointed” in the verdict and would be appealing.
PNC added in a statement that the company “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.”
In court papers, Scott said bank higher-ups knew that Pignatello was known to harass female PNC employees, especially Black women, yet they did nothing. Last year, Scott settled a lawsuit with Pignatello’s estate, reported NJ.com.
Nancy Erika Smith, one of Scott’s lawyers, said the incident with Pignatello was further damaging because it triggered Scott’s past abuse and gave her PTSD.
“Employers can and know how to prevent sexual harassment. It’s not really that difficult,” Smith said during the trial, according to NBC News. Smith added that the bank never put a harassment policy into evidence during the trial.