Discrimination suits plague credit union

Since 2015, there have been three discrimination lawsuits filed against South Carolina’s SAFE FCU.

In the 21st century, it may be very difficult for most to believe that a credit union CEO would discriminate against an executive simply because of his religion. Yet that is what allegedly happened to Toby Hayes while he was working as vice president of marketing under SAFE Federal Credit Union President/CEO Darrell Merkel. Merkel has unequivocally denied Hayes’ religious discrimination allegations.

Hayes, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who is suing Merkel and the $1.1 billion Sumter, S.C.-based credit union, said he ultimately wants the credit union to change and treat people better. SAFE is also fighting a disability discrimination case in federal court filed by its longtime former President/CEO Beverly Gagne. Under her 16-year CEO tenure, the credit union grew from $336 million in 2001 to $1 billion in assets in 2016. What’s more, SAFE spent two years fighting a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by former branch manager, Terrie Dawson Durant. That case was dismissed in March 2015 on summary judgement in favor of the credit union.

SAFE has flatly and repeatedly denied the numerous allegations made by Hayes and Gagne and has asked federal judges to dismiss the civil lawsuits, according to federal court filings. Those dismissal motions, opposed by Hayes and Gagne, are pending before federal judges in U.S. District Court in Columbia.


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