66-Year-Old Female COO Files $20m Gender And Age Discrimination Suit Against Cushman & Wakefield Complaint Details Real Estate Giant's Hiring of 38-Year-Old Male Neophyte; C&W Touts Youth of New President While Industry Press Sees Preservation Of "Male Bastion"
NEW YORK, Oct. 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Sanford Heisler LLP, a leading national public interest law firm, today filed a more than $20 million employment discrimination lawsuit in Supreme Court, New York County, against Cushman & Wakefield, Inc. (C&W), the largest private real estate company in the world.
The complaint was filed on behalf of the company's New York Tri-State Chief Operating Officer Suzy A. Reingold, 66, who despite her 15 years of real estate management experience was passed over for promotion to New York Tri-State President. C&W chose, instead, a 38-year-old man from outside of the company, Ron Lo Russo, who had no management experience.
The complaint alleges that the "otherwise inexplicable choice" of Lo Russo over Ms. Reingold was motivated by unlawful discrimination based on age and gender, and cites company management's public comments in support of those allegations. "It's not often that a company goes public with its discriminatory motives," noted Sanford Heisler Chairman David Sanford, lead counsel for plaintiff. "In this case, however, no less than C&W's CEO of the Americas, Jim Underhill, publicly boasted that the company had hired this 'young guy' from outside, Ron Lo Russo, to run a big part of their business, calling it 'a perfect example of the transformation that is occurring' at the company."
Senior Litigation Counsel Deborah Marcuse, another member of Ms. Reingold's legal team, explained that C&W's failure to promote Ms. Reingold was flagged by insiders as a prominent example of gender discrimination in the real estate world. "The decision to pass over Ms. Reingold—whose 15 years of management experience included 7 years at C&W—for a 38-year-old male who didn't even meet the qualifications of the posted job description was notable enough in the industry that Crain's New York Business called it out as 'a move sure to feed perceptions of the industry as a male bastion.'"
Ms. Reingold was recruited by C&W to be Executive Managing Director of its New York City offices in 2005. In this role she managed 180 brokers and more than 190 non-brokers in the company's Midtown and Downtown offices, received the highest possible performance ratings from management, and was viewed by her supervisors and colleagues as the natural successor to the firm's then-New York Area Leader, Joseph Harbert. Despite her heavy workload and stellar performance, Ms. Reingold earned dramatically less than her male counterparts. For example, between 2007 and 2010, Ms. Reingold earned at least $100,000 less than New Jersey Market Leader Gil Medina, even though Medina and Stamford/Westchester Market Leader James Fagan together supervised fewer than half the number staff supervised by Ms. Reingold.
When Harbert left C&W in 2012, company management insisted on undertaking an outside search for his replacement in the position now known as President of the New York Tri-State Region, even though Ms. Reingold not only met all the qualifications for the position but had effectively absorbed many of its duties and responsibilities after Harbert's departure. Consistent with C&W's longstanding policy of promoting from within, C&W's CEO of the Americas Jim Underhill repeatedly assured Ms. Reingold that "the job is yours."
Ms. Reingold sues for violations of the New York State Human Rights Law, the New York State Equal Pay Act, the Administrative Code of New York City and the New York Labor Law pertaining to equal pay for equal work, retaliation in the workplace, pay discrimination, and promotion discrimination. Ms. Reingold also claims C&W breached her contract of employment.
Ms. Reingold seeks back pay, unpaid wages, liquidated damages, compensatory damages and punitive damages of $20,000,000, as well as attorneys' fees, costs and expenses, prejudgment and post-judgment interest, and a jury trial.
Cushman & Wakefield is an international real estate company with 253 offices in 60 countries and nearly 15,000 employees worldwide.
About Sanford Heisler
Sanford Heisler is a public interest law firm with offices in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco that specializes in employment discrimination, wage and hour, qui tam and other civil rights matters. The firm has extensive experience in complex class action litigation having successfully represented thousands of individuals in major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents select individual clients with a particular emphasis on the representation of executives and lawyers in employment disputes and whistleblowers. In May 2010, the firm won the largest jury award in the U.S. in a gender discrimination employment class action when a jury returned a verdict of $253 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. In 2012, the firm settled a wage and hour case on behalf of sales reps employed by Novartis Pharmaceuticals for $99 million. For more information, contact Sanford Heisler at (202) 499-5200.
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SOURCE Sanford Heisler LLP