A senior Fannie Mae manager repeatedly plied an employee for sex at boozy lunches and business trips while the company footed the bill, the former employee alleges in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.
Soleil Bonnin claims she was working as an adult dancer at a Washington, D.C. gentlemen’s club when she met Joseph King, a senior manager at the government-backed home loan giant. When Bonnin expressed an interest in changing careers, King allegedly offered her a job working as his direct employee in July 2016. But instead of treating Bonnin as a regular employee, the lawsuit claims, King isolated her from colleagues, took her on outings where he demanded sex, and threatened to fire her if she did not comply.
Fannie Mae higher-ups noticed the inappropriate relationship, Bonnin claims. But instead of taking action against King, Fannie Mae allegedly turned a blind eye, and even compensated him for drunken lunches and unnecessary business trips with Bonnin.
In a statement, Fannie Mae said it was investigating the allegations.
“We have zero tolerance for sexual misconduct and harassment," the company told The Daily Beast. "We investigate allegations whenever we are made aware of them, and we take swift and decisive action when we establish inappropriate behavior. We took swift and decisive action in this instance. While we won’t comment on a pending lawsuit, we continue to investigate the allegations. We terminated the supervisor in question immediately upon learning about his misconduct.”
But Bonnin alleges a culture of sexism and neglect within the loan company’s Washington, D.C. walls.
“Fannie Mae promotes a culture that mistreats women, including hiring and paying them to have sex with upper management, and tolerates illegal, extreme, and abhorrent sexual harassment,” her suit, filed in D.C.’s Superior Court reads.
Bonnin claims she met King when he was a patron at the club, where he was dating one of her colleagues. Bonnin told him she was looking to change professions. Despite her lack of experience, King allegedly hired her to work as a direct employee in the Fannie Mae IT department where he was a senior manager, and even offered to mentor her in her new career.
But from the start of Bonnin’s new employment, King treated her differently than her colleagues, she claims. Rather than encourage her work, King allegedly limited her assignments, forcing her to work only with him, and verbally abusing her when she attempted to socialize with fellow employees.
Instead of letting Bonnin focus on her new job at Fannie Mae, King allegedly badgered her to leave the office with him for lunches where he would have her “drink excessive amounts of alcohol,” her suit alleges.
“On some occasions, King would take plaintiff to a nearby hotel and demand that she have sex with him,” the lawsuit claims.
Bonnin's lawyer, Ari Casper said King's role as supervisor put his employee under economic pressure. “A relationship is not consensual when one of the parties in it is under economic duress to do things she doesn’t want to do," Casper told The Daily Beast.
The alleged harassment continued on what Bonnin describes as unnecessary business trips with King, including at least one trip to Texas, where he allegedly sexually assaulted her in a hotel room.
Bonnin claims colleagues noticed her repeated absences with King, and pressed her about her apparent lack of a job description.
"This guy had her following him around for most the day, be it at work or taking her out to these lunches," Casper said. "Her colleagues would ask, 'where are you all day? What are you doing?'"
At least one of King’s superiors knew about the alleged relationship, Bonnin claims. King’s supervisor, Fannie Mae’s director of workplace operations, was sociable with King and approved King’s expenses for the alcoholic lunches and business trips with Bonnin.
“Fannie Mae tolerated and fostered an environment where employees were given latitude to act improperly,” Bonnin’s suit alleges, pointing to the fact that King was allowed to hire her at all, despite her lack of qualification. “Fannie Mae turned a blind eye to plaintiff and King’s unexplained extended absences from the workplace and their lack of productivity.”
But while Bonnin was isolated and lacked connections at Fannie Mae, King allegedly portrayed himself as a rising star at the company. He allegedly boasted of being close with his supervisor and executives, and claimed he was being considered for a director role.
King allegedly told Bonnin “he could do whatever he wanted at Fannie Mae,” according to the lawsuit. That included firing her, which he allegedly threatened to do if she did not comply with his demands.
Bonnin says she tried to reject King, but he grew more demanding. Once when she refused to let him into her home, he persuaded her management office to give him a key, and got inside against her will, she alleges.
On December 2, 2017, more than a year after she began working at Fannie Mae, the lawsuit said Bonnin received a restraining order against King. It was only after the court order, which prevented King from contacting her, that Fannie Mae finally fired the senior manager, according to the lawsuit.
“Despite plaintiff’s expressed desire to advance her career at Fannie Mae, King refused to allow plaintiff the opportunity to prove herself,” Bonnin’s suit alleges. “King created an environment where plaintiff’s potential for growth was not possible, and whereby she remained entirely dependent on King.”