Young RayJay Employee Cites “Animal House” Office Environment in Harassment Claim
A Raymond James Financial consultant to advisors filed a sexual harassment claim this week accusing the company of “sustaining a hostile, alcohol-fueled work environment” and retaliating against her for complaining to human resources.
Kathryn Wyant, 24, said her former boss pressured her to chug malt liquor while on her knees as part of a series of office drinking games that often included lewd sexual commentary, according to a statement she filed Wednesday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Tampa, Florida, office.
“I joined Raymond James to be part of a world-class financial services firm and grow my career,” Wyant said in a prepared statement circulated by her Dallas-based attorney Rogge Dunn. “I didn’t sign up for Animal House.”
Steve Hollister, a spokesman for Raymond James, said he could not discuss specifics of the complaint but stressed the company’s insistence on a respectful workplace.
“Raymond James is committed to providing a work environment free of discrimination and in which people are treated with courtesy, consideration and respect,” he wrote in an email. “The firm’s policies specifically prohibit harassment in any form. We are committed to taking appropriate action where individuals have violated our policies and, more importantly, our values.”
Wyant hopes to collect statutory damages for mental anguish as well as punitive damages in pressing her case, Dunn said in an email.
Under federal law, a discrimination complaint has to be filed with the EEOC for approval before a lawsuit can be filed.
The alleged harassment began days after Wyant was promoted to the role of succession planning and acquisition planning specialist for the company’s independent branch brokerage channel in May, according to a statement attached to her EEOC complaint. It was her second promotion since she joined the company in June 2014.
“I was subjected to the college fraternity atmosphere drinking that was prevalent in the department in general, and from my boss in particular,” she wrote, citing drinking games that occurred during work hours and at after-hour meetings of her team. The statement details a June 26, 2016, incident in which her boss ordered her to “get on your knees” and chug a pint-and-a-half bottle of a Smirnoff malt liquor while being videotaped.
After she complained to human resources officials, pressure intensified, she wrote. Her boss, Nate Lenz, confronted her dismissively in front of colleagues about having being “called into the principal’s office” following some “stool-pigeon’s complaint,” according to her EEOC statement.
Lenz was fired after Wyant’s lawyer sent a “demand letter” to Raymond James, according to the complaint. Lenz did not return a call for comment.
Since Lenz’s dismissal, Wyant has been given menial tasks and “suffered the silent treatment” from colleagues, according to her EEOC statement.
Raymond James offered Wyant a severance package that she has refused, according to the press release publicizing her EEOC complaint.
“Kathryn faced every young employee’s terrible dilemma,” Dunn wrote in a July 26 letter to Raymond James Chairman Thomas James and Chief Executive Paul Reilly. “Do I keep my mouth shut and endure a hostile and abusive environment so I succeed at work, or do I take the bold step and report the wrongdoings and face ridicule and retaliation?”