Mortgage Daily Logo
mortgage news from industry experts

Astoria Mortgage Unit Hit With Harassment Suit

Astoria Mortgage Unit Hit With Harassment SuitMarilyn Dunn alleges sexual harassment, discrimination

October 11, 2004
(revised 10.18.04)


A New York thrift and some of its top management face a lawsuit by a former mortgage department employee who is accusing them of discriminating against and harassing her, wrongfully terminating her, and misleading investors. But the credibility of the plaintiff is tainted because she forged the signature of her supervisor.

Marylyn Dunn has commenced a lawsuit in the New York County Supreme Court against Astoria Federal Savings and Loan Association and some of its top management. Dunn, a former senior secretary in Astoria’s mortgage department, claims in the lawsuit she was the victim of sexual harassment and physical assault by her supervisor Joseph Javitz, who reportedly resigned from his position of First Vice President following the filing of the complaint.

Among other things, Dunn also alleges financial improprieties were undertaken at Astoria. These include lack of diligence in properly implementing an operating system, which resulted in millions of dollars of losses; possible intentional reporting of misinformation such as the number of loans in Astoria’s pipeline to investors interested in acquiring company stock; and possible discrimination against Astoria loan officers by offering prospective candidates in a Manhattan mortgage center the ability to charge lower interests rates than in other counties, according to the suit.

Dunn, represented by attorney Robert J. Barsch, listed 14 causes of action in the suit and seeks at least $1 million for damages including loss of salary and other compensation; injuries from embarrassment, humiliation and anxiety incurred by acts of sexual harassment; age discrimination; religious harassment; and disability discrimination, according to the complaint.

Astoria executive vice president Gary McCann and chairman and chief executive George Engelke are also named in the lawsuit for allegedly abetting, inciting, compelling or coercing the doing of such acts. The plaintiff alleges she and others made them aware of the discriminatory or harassment acts occurring in their workplace, but the situations were not resolved, despite the executives’ assurance that they would be.

Dunn, who worked for Astoria from April 1999 to July 2004, was treated for breast cancer in late 2002. After her surgery, Javitz continually inquired about her age and he and McCann ‘inquired with great specificity” every time Dunn had to go to medical visits, the suit said.

When Dunn, 59, would not reveal her age, Javitz allegedly attempted to find out by asking questions such as how old she was when her first child was born, how old her husband was, and if she’d gone through menopause yet.

The former secretary alleges she once overheard Javitz and McCann talking about her health history, expressing concern in terms of financial expenditure to the bank in case her illness returned. Upon an inquiry from Javitz four days prior to her termination, Dunn informed him about a medical appointment she had regarded the treated illness, according to the complaint.

Dunn also alleges she received many complaints about Javitz’s “inappropriate physical closeness to female employees by his putting his arm on their shoulders or his hovering over them whispering as they sat in their cubicles.” On one occasion, in the presence of a third employee, Javitz allegedly “bent down while plaintiff was at her desk and grabbed her left leg and pulled it toward him…rubbed plaintiff’s knee, upper and mid-calf with his hands. Plaintiff was forced to maneuver to keep her knees together while her skirt went up,” according to the complaint.

Other sexual harassment Dunn allegedly endured included Javitz’s comments graphically detailing his private body parts and his own sex life; lewd, suggestive comments about her dress attire; and inappropriate questions about her husband’s sexual ability.

Dunn alleges she “objected to having to listen to [Javitz’s] personal sex life,” wife, and plans, and that Javitz told her “part of her job as his assistant was to listen to him.”

Javitz, on several occasions, allegedly required the her to make files on coworkers in anticipation of terminating those employees. Dunn alleges Javitz once required her to prepare a file for an employee he called “an uppity nigger,” who was then demoted from her position. On another occasion, Dunn alleges she was “forced to listen to the plans” made by Javitz and told to McCann for “plaintiff to find reasons to fire an employee who defendant Javitz thought was effeminate in walk, speech and gesture.”

“Defendant Javitz unnerved the plaintiff when in addition to telling her to start a file on the employee he felt was gay, he empathized his point by donning a woman employees’ fur cat, hat and scarf, putting it on and sashaying all over the office asking defendant McCann to guess who he was,” the suit said.

Javitz is also accused of religious harassment — including a six-month long religious obsession when he constantly questioned Dunn about what religion she was and how often she attended church. “Plaintiff did not know in light of his sexual conduct if Defendant Javitz was asking this question to see if plaintiff’s religion was an obstacle to his goals,” the suit said.

Dunn allegedly warned company officials she was planning on filing a lawsuit.

Prior to her termination, Dunn faxed and signed Javitz’s name on an address request verification letter for her son, who was a customer of the bank and had recently purchased a home with an Astoria mortgage loan, the suit said. Dunn alleges Javitz was absent when the request was made and that “as is the accepted secretarial practice in business,” she put her initial on the document to indicate she had signed Javitz’s name.

Following this action, Javitz arranged for Dunn to meet with the head of the bank’s security who let her know the department occasionally did background checks on employees and that it had been contacted by the company she had faxed the note to. After explaining the situation, the head of security found there was “no intent of fraud,” informed he would write a report to Javitz and told Dunn to return to her desk.

When Dunn returned to her work floor, Javitz told Dunn standard bank procedure was to suspend a person under investigation for misconduct effective immediately. She was ordered to leave the building and was told she would be called when she was to return, but no time frame was given, according to the lawsuit.

The next day, plaintiff received a call from the vice president of human resources, who informed her she had two options: resign or be terminated for misconduct. She had until the close of business that day to decide. Dunn called shortly after the notice to inform she was not going to resign. The following day, the plaintiff received a termination letter via certified mail.

Astoria did not return a phone call for comment upon’s request.

In an E-mailed statement, Dunn’s attorney said the reasons for Javitz’s resignation were not made public, “but an inference that it had something to do with the lawsuit is there.

Barsch said Astoria has moved in the court for an injunction prohibiting certain press releases, and the court date is set for Oct. 13.

Coco Salazar is an assistant editor and staff writer for

Popular posts

How Long Does It Take to Refinance a Mortgage
How Long Does It Take to Refinance a Mortgage

So, you’re interested in refinancing your mortgage. Maybe you want some extra capital to do that home project you’ve always dreamed of, interest rates are nearing record lows, or you want to start consolidating debt. Regardless of the motivation behind the refinance,...

How Does Refinancing a Mortgage Work
How Does Refinancing a Mortgage Work

A home purchase is considered an investment, and a robust one at that. Savvy owners are constantly looking for new ways to reduce debt, save money, pay less in interest, and ultimately build equity. Refinancing is one way to leverage your investment and do just that....

What Does It Mean to Refinance Your Home
What Does It Mean to Refinance Your Home

You can think of refinancing your mortgage as a debt redo. Essentially, you’ll swap out the existing loan for a new one - ideally with better terms and conditions. Only this time it could help you save money on high mortgage payments, rather than just borrow it....

Setting up the Utilities in My New House
Setting up the Utilities in My New House

All the tedious, time-consuming home closing documents have been signed, sealed, and delivered. Your belongings are packed into what seems like a million boxes and you have a solid plan to haul all your existing furniture to the new place. Just as your boxes and...

When Is My First Mortgage Payment Due?
When Is My First Mortgage Payment Due?

Navigating your way through a brand new mortgage loan can be a difficult task, especially for first time homeowners. After handing over a large sum of money for the down payment and closing costs, it’s important to pay attention to the timing of your first mortgage...


Don’t worry, we don’t spam

calculate your monthly mortgage payment

Related Topics

Helpful Links

Daily mortgage rate trends

Best mortgage lenders

First-time homebuyers programs by state

Loan limits by state

Types of mortgages

APR vs interest rate

Understanding PMI

Related Posts