In a recent New York federal case, former employee of a financial services firm is claiming that the company’s sexually inappropriate workplace culture gave free rein to a predatory supervisor who raped her after a company outing.
The plaintiff in the complaint identified as Jane Doe 1, alleged several federal and state law claims against McAdam Financial Group LLC and supervisor Charles Norfleet, who she said sexually assaulted her twice. McAdam Financial fired Norfleet in July, the complaint said.
"The #MeToo movement's heightened awareness about violence against women, including and especially at the workplace, changed nothing for young female employees who work at McAdam Financial," the lawsuit said.
The adviser began working at the company in June 2020 right after she graduated from college, according to the suit.
The plaintiff learned that McAdam's senior managers were all male, and that certain male supervisors had a group chat in which they discussed female employees' appearances, Doe said. The existence of the group chat, in addition to what the suit claimed was a male supervisor's sexually suggestive response to a female employee's comment, showed men at the firm that the company tacitly condoned discrimination, according to the suit.
Plaintiff’s co-workers also told her that Norfleet had a reputation for being "creepy" with women at the company, and that he was known to touch or grope employees, the suit said. Norfleet wielded influence over Doe's work and income at the company, she said. When he offered her help on sales, her status at McAdam Financial went up, Thursday's filing said.
Plaintiff also claimed that at a company outing in June 2021, Norfleet either slipped a date rape drug into her drink or persuaded her to drink so much that she became severely intoxicated and went in and out of consciousness. According to the complaint, Doe woke up naked in Norfleet's apartment without knowing how she got there, and she believed Norfleet had raped her. Soon after she woke up, she claimed Thursday, Norfleet raped her again.
Plaintiff reported the incident to her supervisor later that month, the suit said.
That same day, she spoke with other women at McAdam Financial who told her that Norfleet had inappropriately touched them the night of the company outing, and that another employee — identified as Jane Doe 2 — said she had also been raped by Norfleet after a company kickball event, according to the suit.
Jane Doe 2, who is not a plaintiff in the case, told Jane Doe 1 that she'd also believed she had been drugged, and that Norfleet had raped her the morning after she woke up in his apartment without realizing why she was there, the complaint said.
Instead of taking action to support Jane Doe 1, McAdam Financial instead made her tell multiple male managers about the assault and reneged on its offer to reimburse the therapy costs she incurred as a result of her assault.
She further alleged that the company retaliated against her by accusing her of a compliance violation. She claimed that rumors spread around the office blaming her for Norfleet's firing that July. This response made her feel like she was being blamed for what happened to her, and like she had no other recourse but to leave the company, according to the suit.
Jane Doe 1 brought discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment claims against both Norfleet and McAdam Financial under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and New York state and city human rights laws. She also levied specific claims against Norfleet for gender-motivated violence, assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and she alleged that McAdam Financial was negligent in supervising and retaining him.
A spokesperson for McAdam Financial told Law360 on last week that "the lawsuit brought against the company is completely without merit and we will strongly defend our company against its unsubstantiated claims."
"McAdam Financial will continue its zero-tolerance policy related to sexual harassment claims and will swiftly act in the event of misconduct," the statement continued.
Jeanne M. Christensen, a partner at Wigdor LLP and counsel for Jane Doe 1, said in a press release that "by allowing a sexually charged work culture, McAdam Financial created an atmosphere in which a male supervisor was emboldened to sexually assault a junior female employee."
"There is no excuse for this sickening level of negligence," she said last week.