First Guaranty sued for gender discrimination, retaliation

Three women formerly employed by First Guaranty Mortgage Corp. are suing the lender for gender discrimination and retaliation, alleging that female employees were victims of unfair treatment from company leaders.

Lynley VanSingel, Melanie Meyer and Jessie Palmer filed the lawsuit against FGMC and its owner PIMCO last week in the Eastern District of Texas U.S. District Court, just before the company’s mass layoff and bankruptcy filing. Coworkers and supervisors of the plaintiffs including CEO Aaron Samples are accused of subjecting the plaintiffs to hostile gender-based microaggressions, bullying not experienced by male colleagues, reduction of pay and responsibilities and terminations.

“Their actions have resulted in disparate treatment of female employees at the company,” the lawsuit said.

Plaintiffs also filed discrimiation charges against the companies with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint accuses PIMCO of knowingly allowing FGMC to be undercapitalized, or improperly transferring assets out of FGMC, causing it to be undercapitalized. 

FGMC and PIMCO declined to comment Thursday, and attorneys for plaintiffs didn’t respond to requests for comment. FGMC earlier Thursday filed for Chapter 11 protection less than a week after it fired 471 workers, or over 75% of its workforce, over operational losses brought on by the declining mortgage market

VanSingel, First Guaranty’s former senior vice president of Learning and Organizational Development, is also suing for breach of contract in failing to receive 60 days of severance pay after her termination in early February. Last fall, VanSingel raised concerns with Samples about overstaffing and above-average turnover amid the firm’s fast expansion. 

In January, VanSingel said she experienced discriminatory behavior by then-senior vice president of retail sales Jordan Simons. During a meeting Simons allegedly told VanSingel “words matter” in correcting her responses, and that she was speaking in a way that undermined her credibility.

“As a female mortgage executive with 20 years’ experience (far greater than his), VanSingel experienced that he was employing gender-based micro-aggressions in the conversation,” the suit said.

After VanSingel took her concerns to her supervisor, chief administrative officer Dwayne Smith, he allegedly told her they needed to find a mutually beneficial way to part ways because of her comments in an annual review, in which she claimed to have provided an honest assessment about the past year. VanSingel later learned the decision to terminate her employment was made by Samples because of her earlier complaints about Simons, the suit said.

Meyer, an originator hired in 2020 and elevated to a purchase team lead position in 2021, claims Simons raised his voice at her in front of colleagues, admonished her for requesting stronger sales leads, and canceled a few scheduled calls. After Meyers spoke to senior vice president Brandon Jewkes about Simons’ behavior, she was allegedly demoted to an hourly call center loan officer position under a sales manager she outperformed in 2021.

Meyer resigned in April and described her demotion in a departure letter as the result of discrimination and retaliation. She said FGMC never responded to the complaints.

Palmer, a high-producing originator, was hired by FGMC in 2021 to onboard mortgage loan originators, according to the suit. She allegedly declined to hire a candidate who in an interview called her “honey” and “sweetheart” and asked inappropriate questions about her family circumstances but was overruled by Jewkes who hired the man. 

The originator, Sidney Elliot, was later transferred to Palmer’s team and addressed Palmer as “sweetheart,” leading Palmer to correct him, the suit stated. Elliot then allegedly told Simons “he didn’t feel that he could work with a woman,” and Simons and Jewkes acquiesced to his request to transfer to another team. Simons admitted to Palmer he should have fired Elliot, but the supervisors failed to report Elliot to human resources and later began to treat Palmer in a retaliatory manner over documentation matters, the suit claims.

Palmer in January .rmed Jewkes and human resources of a separate team member’s resignation and Jewkes allegedly berated Palmer for including HR in an .. Palmer eventually reported Jewkes’ and Simons’ behavior to HR. The department in late January .rmed Palmer that Elliot, the originator, did discriminate against her but said Jewkes’ and Simons’ behavior didn’t constitute retaliation. Later that day, HR and another executive terminated Palmer for allegedly low sales volume.

“Palmer is aware of other women in the company who were terminated shortly after making complaints regarding discrimination against Simons and other male employees,” the lawsuit said.

Of the men named in the complaint, Samples and Jewkes appear to still be employed with the company, while Simons and Smith departed in May, according to their LinkedIn profiles. Simons and Smith did not immediately return messages Thursday afternoon seeking comment. 

Prior to FGMC’s bankruptcy filing, five former employees also filed federal class action lawsuits regarding FGMC’s alleged violation of the Texas Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification act in last week’s sudden layoff. The company on July 1 in a federal court hearing in Delaware will request orders allowing it to support past due and current employee and vendor payments.