Judge dismisses CU’s dismissal of allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation from former executive

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A federal judge has dismissed a demand from the retained $ 4.3 billion Municipal Credit Union in New York City to dismiss allegations by a former senior executive who claims her supervisors ignored and retaliated against her over abuses complaints of sexual harassment by disgraced former MCU President / CEO Kam Wong.

Former MCU Vice President of Mortgage Operations Anie Akpe-Lewis claims in her lawsuit that instead of investigating and addressing Wong’s alleged sexual harassment, the credit union and some of its supervisors allegedly took it. subjected to reduced bonuses, denied her regular reviews, excluded her from monthly meetings with her colleagues, and ridiculed her for her afro hairstyle.

“In view of the plaintiff’s (Akpe-Lewis) minimal pleading burden at this point, the facts should be further explored upon discovery,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge William F. Kuntz for the Eastern District. from New York to Brooklyn in its ruling released last week. “Accordingly, the Defendants’ (MCU) motion to dismiss the complainant’s sexual harassment complaint is dismissed. “

Further, Judge Kuntz also dismissed the MCU’s motion to dismiss Akpe-Lewis’s retaliation allegations, writing: “The complainant has the right to develop a stronger factual record on her retaliation claim.”

The judge also did not dismiss Akpe-Lewis’ claims that the MCU failed to maintain a proper whistleblower policy after the former credit union executive claimed he discovered a growing number of defaults. on MCU’s installment loans, which she said was indicative of illegality, including fraud. . Akpe-Lewis also claims to have disclosed additional financial irregularities between May 2018 and January 2019, and in June 2019 she was fired.

However, Justice Kuntz dismissed various allegations by Akpe-Lewis regarding wage claims under the Fair Wages and Labor Standards Act and against which she suffered retaliation for complaining about these issues.

“The plaintiff, an exempt employee who was making well over a hundred thousand dollars at the time of his termination, is not claiming that MCU did not pay minimum wage or overtime,” Judge Kuntz wrote. “The applicant also fails to identify a section of the FLSA that was allegedly raped. Accordingly, the request of the requestor FLSA is hereby denied. “

Akpe-Lewis’s various breach of contract claims against the MCU were also dismissed.

In addition to Wong, who is in federal prison for embezzling nearly $ 10 million from New York’s oldest credit union, the lawsuit named seven other senior executives. They included P. Kay Woods and Mark Ricca, who both served as MCU CEOs at different times after the credit union retention in May 2019 after a widespread fraud and corruption scandal was exposed; former MCU credit director and interim CEO Norman Kohn; Sonita DiFranco, former director of home loans; and human resources consultants Shannon Mashburn and Stella Jiang. All of the people listed were Akpe-Lewis’s supervisors.

Judge Kuntz dismissed Akpe-Lewis’ claims against DiFranco, Jiang, Woods and Ricca, ruling that the claims against them were insufficient to establish individual liability. However, Akpe-Lewis’s allegations against Wong, Kohn and Mashburn have not been dismissed.

In her trial, Akpe-Lewis claimed that from October 2007 to December 2017, she was “on several occasions the target of an ongoing illegal, unwanted and hostile pattern of counterpart sexual harassment by Wong, and that ‘he constantly offered her to have intimate and illicit sex.

The former senior credit union executive also claimed that she repeatedly reported Wong’s harassment to Kohn, but he allegedly “summarily dismissed” her complaints, berated her and never investigated them. .

In addition to arguing that Akpe-Lewis ‘allegations of sexual harassment should be dismissed, court documents show MCU lawyers also argued that Akpe-Lewis’ retaliation claims should be dismissed as she allegedly rejected Wong’s advances as early as October 2007., but she was not fired until June 2019 and suffered no alleged adverse action until at least eight years later, in 2015, when she began working complain about his bonus reductions.

“No facts are alleged to link these adverse actions to the alleged rejection of Wong’s advances,” the MCU’s lawyers wrote. “Thus, neither did the plaintiff allege sufficient facts to formulate a quid pro quo harassment claim.”

A judicial conference between MCU and Akpe-Lewis lawyers is scheduled for December before an investigating judge.

READ MORE: Documents reveal new allegations of MCU fraud and corruption

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