The former CEO at the 77,000-member, $1.5 billion Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union has sued the Board of Directors of the credit union, both as a group and individually, alleging he was fired for following state and federal laws on equal opportunity hiring.
But Mielczarek was dismissed in May 2012 because, he alleged in documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, he had hired and persisted in hiring credit union staff that were not of Polish origin or spoke Polish as a first language.
PSFCU is the nation's largest ethnically based credit union. Mielczarek is of Polish descent, but is also Hispanic and was reared in Spain, according to the documents.
He also is a Harvard Business School graduate who came to the credit union after working for JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch and Barclays in North America and Europe.
“Upon commencing employment with Defendant PSFCU, Plaintiff quickly learned that its Board Members and management expressed strong Polish values, which was not unexpected given the Defendant PSFCU's target member-client base,” Mielczarek stated in the filing.
“However, contrary to Plaintiff's expectations, Defendant PSFCU engaged in unlawful racial, ancestral and ethnic employee hiring and retention practices,” he charged.
Mielczarek wrote that, for example, board members “admonished” him for “dismissing someone of Polish descent” when he fired then-General Counsel Paul Sosnowski in September 2011.
He also alleged that when he presented job candidates for positions to the board, the first question board members asked was “is he/she Polish,” and he noted that despite the labor pool where credit union had physical locations was predominantly non-Polish, the credit union's workforce remained 98% Polish.
The credit union's policy of hiring only Polish staff was made easier, Mielczarek also charged, because of the credit union's practice of only advertising for employees in the Polish language media, as well and Mielczarek alleged his refusal to go along with the discriminatory policy led to his dismissal.
“In September 2011, despite having received clear preferences from Defendants to solely hire Polish individuals, Plaintiff hired one Larry Lugaro, a non-Polish facilities manager of Hispanic descent, because such individual was, in Plaintiff's opinion, the most qualified candidate for job.”
Mielczarek also hired William Arnold, also non-Polish, as chief lending officer for the same reason, he said.
In addition to back pay and damages, Mielczarek is seeking to be reinstated to the CEO position and to have the credit union reverse its alleged discriminatory hiring policy.
The court has set Nov. 20 as the date for a conference among all parties to the case and has granted some of the defendants until November 1 to file responses to the complaint.
Neither the lawyers representing Mielczarek nor the board have responded to calls for comment. The credit union also has not responded.
The NCUA’s website listing for Polish & Slavic names Agnieszka Poslednik at its president/CEO.