A New Jersey jury ordered PNC Bank to pay a former employee $2.4 million for failing to protect her from a white male customer allegedly known to harass black women.
Damara Scott sued her former employer and customer Patrick Pignatello after she claimed he sexually harassed outside the branch where she worked in Glen Ridge, an affluent town about 16 miles west of Manhattan.
In October 2013, Pignatello allegedly followed Scott from the bank to her car, verbally harassing her and then grinding into her backside, according to Scott's lawsuit against Pignatello and the bank.
Pignatello was charged with sexual assault after the alleged incident, Scott's lawyers said. A prominent resident of the community known as "Mr. Glen Ridge," he died of natural causes at age 77 in December 2013, according to his obituary in NJ.com.
On Monday, an Essex County Superior Court jury awarded damages to Scott, concluding that PNC Bank failed to shield her from harm despite knowing Pignatello had a history of alleged harassment.
Pignatello had accounts with PNC, and lawyers for Scott said she was dismayed the bank took no action to bar him from her workplace after her assault.
Scott, who is black, said Pignatello was known to often harass female PNC employees, particularly black women.
According to NJ.com, Scott settled a suit last year with Pignatello's estate. NBC News reached out to Pignatello's family on Wednesday morning but did not immediately hear back.
Attorney Nancy Erika Smith, a member of Scott's legal team, said the incident with Pignatello triggered past experiences of abuse for Scott, and gave her PTSD. Scott had been working at PNC bank for more than a decade, and waited two years to sue, hoping the trauma from the assault would go away. She no longer works at the bank and is still working on healing, Smith said.
Smith believes the bank should have taken immediate action after the incident with Pignatello.
"Employers can and know how to prevent sexual harassment. It's not really that difficult," adding that during the trial. She said the bank did not put a harassment policy into evidence.
In a statement to NBC News, PNC Bank said the bank plans to appeal the verdict, which it said "disappointed" them.
PNC "does not condone harassment of any kind," the statement 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."