A former Raymond James VP accused supervisors at the firm of firing her after she raised sexual harassment concerns to them, according to a complaint filed in Florida federal court.
Joena Bartolini Mitchell filed her request for a jury trial earlier this week, arguing that she’d “witnessed and was the target of numerous instances of sexual harassment,” during her 15-year tenure at Raymond James, according to the complaint.
She described how, after sending her direct supervisor articles detailing how sexism and discrimination can arise in the workplace, she was “systematically stripped” of her duties and suspended for allegedly violating company policies on transmitting privileged information, before later being fired.
“The unfortunate reality is that (Raymond James’) conduct towards Ms. Bartolini Mitchell is not a one-off or unique situation,” the complaint read. “To the contrary, it is entirely consistent with a status quo of silencing women who stand up against (Raymond James’) discriminatory culture.”
Working out of Raymond James’ St. Petersburg, Fla. office from 2006 until her termination in 2022, Bartolini Mitchell started in the due diligence department before becoming a VP, Administration & Risk for the company’s RIA & Custody Services, according to the complaint (she was also a co-chair for the firm’s Private Client Group Diversity and Inclusion committee).
Bartolini Mitchell argued she also experienced disquieting criticism she doubted would be faced by a man in her position. According to the filing, Head of RIA & Custody Services Gregory Bruce repeatedly categorized her as “too aggressive,” demanding she “talk less and listen more” and that she would be a better employee if she’d “soften” her image to “be more approachable.” She also had to “undergo coaching in the areas of voice, tone, expressions and pleasantries in emails, as if she were a beauty pageant contestant,” according to the complaint.
When she told others, she got sympathetic eye rolls and laughs, as well as female co-workers who had heard the same thing, and that “that’s just how it is” for female employees at Raymond James.” The former rep also claimed Bruce withheld a promotion from her because of her gender, again claiming she was “too aggressive.”
In the complaint, she detailed a total of 12 instances of sexual harassment she experienced or witnessed.
In one case in 2015, when driving a group of financial advisors to a hotel, one of them threw a $50 bill at Bartolini Mitchell and later “sexually propositioned” her female boss, according to the complaint. That same year, Bartolini Mitchell had dinner with two male clients, with one describing how he waxed his pubic hair and demanding he drive her home (Bartolini Mitchell hid behind a dumpster at the restaurant until the client left, according to the complaint).
In 2012, after Bartolini Mitchell complimented a co-worker’s belt, the male colleague allegedly stood up, took off the belt and gave it to her, while other men at the table joked that the man was “planning to take off his pants” for Bartolini Mitchell, who was “humiliated” by the experience. Several years earlier, a male Raymond James executive invited her to happy hour with other colleagues, but when she arrived only the executive was there, according to the complaint.
“He insisted that he walk Ms. Bartolini Mitchell back to her hotel and upstairs to her room. The male executive persisted despite Ms. Bartolini Mitchell’s repeated refusals,” the complaint read (Bartolini Mitchell escaped the situation by bringing him to a lobby of a different hotel and claiming she needed to call her mother).
In 2022, Bartolini Mitchell addressed the issue with Bruce by forwarding him several articles and materials about sexism in the workplace, including a New York Times piece entitled “Why Women Aren’t CEOs, According to Women Who Almost Were.” Bruce disputed that he was being sexist, according to the complaint.
By September, the firm removed responsibilities from Bartolini Mitchell, including barring her from preparing for or attending budget reviews and not inviting her to interview leadership position candidates. She also alleged the firm hired two senior vice presidents that month, one of whom took over “approximately 70%” of Bartolini Mitchell’s responsibilities.
On Oct. 3, the firm suspended Bartolini Mitchell; according to the complaint, the firm accused her of sending business-related material from her work to a personal email address. But Bartolini Mitchell said the move was accidental and that she never disclosed it to others, nor was it compromised. She also argued it was common for Raymond James employees to use personal emails when conducting business.
In late November, Bartolini Mitchell filed a discrimination and retaliation charge against the firm with the EEOC. Bruce fired her the following day, citing the errant emails as the cause (despite her protests that the firing was discriminatory). The firm also notified FINRA about the details of her firing, which is public on her BrokerCheck profile; Bartolini Mitchell said the move was “likely fatal” to her career in the industry.
Bartolini Mitchell’s attorneys did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Raymond James.