Fired Edward Jones Broker Claims Sexual Harassment, Wrongful Termination
A former Edward D. Jones & Co. financial advisor has sued the firm for discrimination, claiming that a “forced sexual encounter” with another advisor during her training culminated in her unlawful termination in 2019.
Amanda Daugherty, 37, of Nacogdoches, TX, filed her complaint Tuesday with the U.S. District Court of Eastern Texas.
Daugherty, who has worked at five firms over her six-year career as a registered representative, claimed she was “subjected to severe and pervasive discriminatory conduct” at Edward Jones, which she joined in 2015. Her suit says she was terminated on April 18, 2019, resulting in extended harm to her career, while her victimizer was allowed to voluntarily resign.
“We take allegations of this nature seriously, and are committed to a safe and healthy workplace of belonging for all,” said Catherine Stengel, a spokeswoman for Jones.
She declined to comment on Daugherty’s specific claims.
Lawsuits over gender discrimination have haunted the securities industry for decades, occasionally leading to large class-action settlements, largely focusing on broad policies such as account distributions that allegedly favored male brokers. Individual cases in the #MeToo era have often included charges of sexual harassment.
Edward Jones last month agreed to a $34 million settlement of a racial discrimination class suit alleging discrimination against at least 800 current and former Black financial advisors.
Daugherty, who seeks $1 million in compensatory damages, alleges that during mandatory training in Tempe, Arizona, in December 2015 she became a “target for sexual harassment and conquest” by Chris J. Gervais, a “veteran” advisor participating in the training program.
Daugherty, who was 32 at the time, said she was particularly “vulnerable” because she was suffering from postpartum depression.
Gervais, a Winona, Minnesota-based broker who began his career in 2007 as a Jones broker and left in 2016 to become an independent contractor with LPL Financial, was not named as a defendant.
“Until I have spoken with counsel, I have nothing to say,” he said in a phone call on Wednesday.
The lawsuit alleges that the broker confronted her throughout the training program, saying they deserved “‘relief’ from the high stress of working at the Firm,” sent her inappropriate text messages and, on the last night of the program, forcibly kissed her when she met him in expectations of receiving an apology.
In July 2016, Gervais “insisted” that she fly to Minnesota to meet for “further training,” according to the complaint, and “pressured [her] into a forced sexual encounter.” She said she learned only upon arrival that there was no training event scheduled.
“Despite having knowledge of Gervais’ prior tendencies and having delivered Plaintiff to Gervais for grooming and mentoring, Edward Jones wholly failed to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior, but instead brought adverse action against the victim making a formal warning of her ‘unprofessional conduct’ part of her employment record,” the complaint said.
While individual claims of harassment are highly fact-specific, Daugherty’s wrongful termination claim focuses on the disparate treatment allegedly dispensed by Jones after she filed complaints with the firm. It allowed Gervais to resign in 2016 without adverse action beyond the “voluntarily resigned” designation on the U-5 form filed with regulators, her lawsuit says.
The lawsuit alleges that Gervais’ “predatory conduct was known by Edward Jones as Gervais had received counseling for his behavior.”
Daugherty’s U-5, in contrast, says she was discharged for “non-conformity with HR policies/guidelines,” according to her lawsuit, and has allegedly interfered with her ability to retain future posts. She joined FSC Securities Corporation in May 2019, moved to Raymond James Financial Services in September of that year, and again in November 2020 to Harbor Financial Services, where she is currently registered, according to BrokerCheck.
There is no record of Daugherty’s or Gervais’ terminations or of other disclosures on their BrokerCheck histories.
Daugherty’s claim asserts that under her brief tenure at the Nacogdoches branch she transformed it from not “particularly profitable” to “extremely profitable and one of the best performing branches in her district.” But it also claims that her relationship with her branch office administrator dramatically deteriorated in 2018 and that instead of focusing on her request for support, Edward Jones zeroed in on the Gervais incidents and aspects of her personal life.
“Specifically, Plaintiff was questioned on her forced sexual encounter in 2016 with Gervais, her leaving her breast pumping apparatus drying in the kitchen sink area, bringing her children to work, as well as the private and personal discussions with [her branch office administrator] regarding their respective prior sexual partners and Plaintiff’s marital matters,” the complaint said.
The lawsuit says that Daugherty was replaced at the branch by the son of a broker who operated another Edward Jones branch three-tenths of a mile away. “There has been a female advisor at [the Nacogdoches branch] since at least 2012,” the complaint said. “It was not until 2019, when the Branch became profitable, that a male Financial Advisor was assigned to take it over.”
Her lawsuit also asserts that her replacement and other Jones employees told her clients that she had overcharged them and that they would be “penalized” if they moved their accounts to her at a new employer.
The lawsuit seeks front pay, back pay, special damages associated with the alleged disparagement to customers, reinstatement to the branch and reimbursement of costs and attorneys’ fees.