Ex-employees sue FGMC for discrimination, retaliation

Three women say they were terminated, demoted in retaliation for bringing up discrimination claims

Three former employees are suing First Guaranty Mortgage Corporation (FGMC) and financial backer Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO), alleging they were discriminated against on the basis of their gender and then retaliated against for complaining. 

Lynley VanSingel, Melanie Meyer, and Jessie Palmer filed the lawsuit against FGMC and PIMCO in the Eastern District of Texas U.S. District Court on Thursday, June 23, a day before PIMCO-backed FGMC eliminated nearly 80% of its employees and began to shut down. FGMC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware on Thursday, June 30.

The lawsuit accused the plaintiffs’ supervisors, including CEO Aaron Samples, senior vice presidents Jordan Simons and Brandon Jewkes of “negative treatment, including hostile micro-aggressions based upon gender, discriminatory and bullying conduct and treatment which was not experienced by male employees.”

VanSingel, Meyer, and Palmer also claim FGMC and PIMCO removed responsibilities from them and changed their pay and reporting structure because of gender. VanSingel and Palmer were terminated and Meyer was demoted with a significant pay reduction, according to the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit claims PIMCO “knowingly allowed FGMC to be undercapitalized and/or improperly transferred assets out of FGMC causing FGMC to be undercapitalized.”

VanSingel, former senior vice president at learning & organizational development at FGMC, is suing FGMC and PIMCO for not paying her 60 days of severance following her termination in February 2022.

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VanSingel alleges that she experienced discriminatory conduct from senior vice president of retail sales Simons in January 2022. During a meeting, Simons claimed that a trainer assigned to his team was unprofessional, according to VanSingel. When VanSingel asked for specific complaints Simon couldn’t bring up other points besides playing rap music in class on breaks, VanSingel said in the lawsuit. 

Throughout the meeting Simons kept correcting her and told her the way she was speaking was undermining her credibility, VanSingel claimed. He was employing “gender-based micro-aggressions in the conversation,” according to the lawsuit. 

VanSingel brought the interaction to her direct supervisor, Dwayne Smith, chief administrative officer, but her concerns were not addressed because she was terminated shortly after her complaints, she said in the lawsuit. 

VanSingel was told by Smith that she was being fired for expressing frustrations and the comments she made in her self-evaluation portion of her annual review, in which she claims to have made an honest assessment about the past year, court papers say. VanSingel later learned that the termination decision was made by the CEO immediately after her complaints regarding Simons and before her self-evaluation comments, according to the lawsuit. 

Meyer, who was hired as a mortgage originator in October 2020 with about 20 years of experience, claimed that Simons raised his voice after she questioned some data on a report that Simons was sharing at a meeting in January 2022. According to Meyers, other sales managers sent her messages apologizing for Simon’s behavior. Simons later sent Meyer a text apologizing for his outburst but didn’t apologize in front of the group, she said. 

In late January during a call with Simons, Meyer suggested that her team get more leads to experiment if her group could convert more loans than other less experienced teams. Simons allegedly told Meyer in an unprofessional way not to question how things were set up. When Meyer brought the encounter up to her supervisor Jewkes, Meyer was told to to bring things up to Simons and “couldn’t fear his reaction,” she claimed. 

Despite receiving an award for her group’s performance in January 2022, Meyer was informed by the human resources team, Simons and Jewkes that she was being terminated or could accept a demotion to an hourly call center loan officer. She resigned in April 2022 after taking the hourly call center loan officer position. 

Although the company accepted Meyer’s resignation, they never responded to her complaints, according to the lawsuit. In her resignation letter, she said her demotion was a “constructive discharge, resulting from gender discrimination and retaliation.”

Palmer, who was hired as sales manager in March 2021, alleged that Simons hired a loan originator whom she chose not to hire. She claims the candidate was discriminatory and disrepectful during the interview. Sidney Elliot, the candidate, referred to Palmer as “honey” and “sweetheart” during the interview, the lawsuit claims. Jewkes, despite being aware of the candidate’s conduct, chose to hire him, the lawsuit alleges. 

Elliot was later transferred to Palmer’s team and referred to her as “sweetheart” again during the first weekly one-on-one, Palmer said. After Elliot complained to Simons that he couldn’t report to Palmer because “he didn’t feel that he could work with a woman,” Simons and Jewkes “conceded to Elliot’s discriminatory demand” and didn’t provide Palmer a comparable replacement, the lawsuit said. 

Simons later admitted to Palmer that he knew he should have fired Elliot, Palmer claimed. Following that incident, Jewkes began criticizing the quality of Palmer’s originator’s files, which Palmer claimed was on par with the top originators at the company. 

In January 2022, Palmer was notified that she was terminated, allegedly for low sales volume, days after she reported several discrepancies in her final production numbers to an employee on the payroll team. She was about $80,000 from hitting the target of $10 million sales but reports suggested that she was nowhere near that figure, Palmer claimed. 

The plaintiffs are seeking judgment on three separate counts. They are seeking back pay, front pay, pension benefits, stock options, bonuses, health benefits, and any other relief needed to compensate them. 

FGMC declined to comment on ongoing litigation. None of the named defendants responded to requests for comment. Attorneys for VanSingel, Meyer, and Palmer also did not respond to requests for comments.

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