Equity Prime Mortgage sues former HR director for defamation

by Ryan Smith26 Aug 2020

In one summer, Atlanta-based Equity Prime Mortgage has found itself embroiled in racial tensions, a Georgia congressional race, and the QAnon conspiracy theory.

The mortgage company made headlines in June when it fired its HR director, Melissa Rolfe, for comments she made on social media. Rolfe is the stepmother of former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe, who is facing felony murder charges in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks. Brooks was killed in June during a traffic stop outside a Wendy’s restaurant in southeast Atlanta.

Equity Prime Mortgage is now suing Melissa Rolfe along with the congressional campaign of Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene. Equity Prime claims that Rolfe and the Greene campaign conspired to “peddle the false narrative” that the company fired her for “fighting for her stepson,” according to court documents.

Equity Prime insists that Garrett Rolfe’s actions had nothing to do with his stepmother’s dismissal. Instead, the company said, Melissa Rolfe was fired for abominable behavior in the workplace.

“After securing her position at EPM under false pretenses, she fostered a hostile work environment at the company by, among other things, calling employees ‘savages’ and ‘f**king bitches,’ joking about conducting rectal temperature checks in the office, saying that an employee was a ‘dumb bitch’ who can only attract men because she ‘must suck d**k really good,’ and saying that an employee had only gotten hired because she had ‘big boobs,’” the mortgage company said in its complaint to the Fulton County, Ga., Superior Court.

The lawsuit also accused Rolfe of engaging in “blatantly racist conduct” in the workplace, including telling a Black staffer to “upgrade [her] standards” and stop dating Black men, as well as calling Black men “weak.”

“Not surprisingly, Rolfe lost people’s confidence in her ability to perform her job as an HR director and was fired,” the lawsuit said.

After her firing, the lawsuit alleged, Rolfe embarked on a “smear campaign” against the company, aided by “a Congressional campaign and a candidate seeking to exploit the death of Rayshard Brooks for their own personal gain.”

The lawsuit accused Rolfe and Greene – who has expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory and has made a series of racist videos – of conspiring to “launch a national media firestorm” by falsely claiming that Rolfe was only fired because of her stepson being charged with murder.

“The smear campaign mobilized a furious social media mob and prompted death threats, a boycott, and enormous reputational and financial harm to [Equity Prime Mortgage],” the lawsuit said.

The company is suing both Rolfe and Greene’s campaign for defamation and false light invasion of privacy. The lawsuit seeks damages and attorney’s fees.

“We were targeted with death threats, hate mail, and a boycott because of a national media firestorm based on statements by Marjorie Greene’s campaign and Melissa Rolfe,” Equity Prime CEO Eddy Perez told The New York Post. “We are committed to setting the record straight and defending our good name.”