Posted October 21st, 2013.
By Pete Brush
Law360, New York (October 21, 2013, 3:53 PM ET) — A Cushman & Wakefield Inc. executive hit her company with a $20 million suit Monday claiming the real estate services giant discriminated against her by paying her less than male co-workers and promoting a far younger man from outside the company to the position of New York tri-state region president.
The gender and age discrimination complaint lodged by plaintiff Suzy A. Reingold in New York City court seeks back pay and damages. The 66-year-old plaintiff, Cushman’s New York-based tri-state chief operating officer, claims the company tapped a younger, less experienced man named Ron Lo Russo for the tri-state president position despite her “superior performance results” since joining the company in 2005.
“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,'” said Sanford Heisler LLP litigator Deborah Marcuse.
The suit was filed after the company’s former New York-area chief, Joseph Harbert, left in 2012.
Reingold claims that not only was she well-qualified for the job, but that before the company changed course and began an outside search that ultimately landed on Lo Russo, Cushman CEO of the Americas Jim Underhill “repeatedly assured Ms. Reingold that ‘the job is yours.””
Cushman & Wakefield spokesman Nick Derasmo said in a statement that the company doesn’t comment on the specifics of pending cases but called the allegations meritless and said the company would defend itself in court. He also said the company stands by its decision to hire Lo Russo to the position.
Lo Russo “has brought incredible leadership to this role, recently hiring a number of new leaders and spearheading a new professional real estate program. In his short time as president, Lo Russo has brought a level of collaboration among our professionals who are highly focused on bringing the company to the next level in New York,” the statement said.
The lawsuit also details instances of male co-workers in the executive suite who allegedly earned more than the plaintiff for the same kinds of work, subsequently claiming that Cushman violated New York City and state anti-discrimination laws.
It also makes a breach-of-contract claim tied to a 5 percent base salary reduction the plaintiff and other workers took in 2009. Reingold claims that move breached her employment contract, which as of Jan. 1, 2008, guaranteed her an annual $300,000 salary.
The plaintiff is represented by Jeremy Heisler, Deborah Marcuse and David Sanford of Sanford Heisler LLP.
Counsel information for the defendant was not available.
The case is Reingold v. Cushman & Wakefield in New York Country Supreme Court. A case number was not available.
–Editing by Philip Shea.