GlobeSt.com, New York (October 22, 2013, 11:10 AM ET) -- Citing a clear emphasis at Cushman & Wakefield on the younger generation, and instances of favoritism of men at the firm-which include a lack of pay equity-New York tri-state region COO and executive managing director Suzy Reingold slapped the company with a discrimination suit Monday that seeks damages of more than $20 million.
Back in 2012, when Joe Harbert vacated the COO position to join Colliers International, Reingold assumed many of his duties and was considered the heir apparent for the position, according to the complaint filed with the New York State Supreme Court-which was to be served on Cushman Monday.
In fact, the legal filing asserts, Reingold was assured by C&W CEO Jim Underhill that, "the job is yours.
Attorney Deborah Marcuse of Sanford Heisler
, which is representing Reingold
in the case, tells GlobeSt.com
, "she was informed that 'because this is a big position and we're a large company, we have to run this search.' But if it was such a big deal, why not go with the most qualified person?"
had been managing brokers for seven years at Cushman and had more than 15 years of experience in the industry, Marcuse says.
By contrast, the complaint quotes an article that appeared in Crain's
New York Business at the time of Lo Russo
's hiring, in Feb., 2013, which says in part, "Lo Russo has worked for several years as an in-house leasing broker at Vornado.
The new role would put Lo Russo
in the prominent role of managing some of the city's top leasing brokers.
It continues, "Lo Russo
will take over the role from Suzy Reingold
Though Lo Russo is well regarded in the industry, bringing him in to replace Reingold
marks another occasion in which a high ranking position in the real estate business has gone to a man, a move sure to feed perceptions of the industry as a male bastion."
Says Marcuse, "they told Reingold she
was going to work with Lo Russo; it's almost like they were saying they know he's
not up to the job."
The complaint goes on to site a clear emphasis on youth at Cushman & Wakefield
As it happens, Reingold
first brought Lo Russo
to the attention of Cushman executives, but she
suggested him for a middle management role.
tossed out the name, the complaint alleges, "Underhill's only question about the candidate, on two separate occasions, was "how old is he?"
The press release announcing the hire included Lo Russo's
age but did not mention Reingold's
also alleges she
was short-changed on compensation in several ways-and in one instance was told to stifle concerns after she
was hired in 2005, she
was guaranteed an annual salary of $250,000 and then received a raise to $300,000 in January, 2008.
When Reingold complained to the firm's general counsel at the time, she was told not to pursue the matter further unless she was planning to leave the firm, according to the complaint.
compensation has been at least $100,000 less than her
male counterpart in New Jersey for every year since 2007 and was lower than her
Stamford/Westchester male equivalent for all but one of those years.
Reingold continues to work at Cushman & Wakefield and was reportedly at the office on Monday.
However, the atmosphere has been hostile, according to the lawsuit.
Reingold claims that shortly after Lo Russo's hire, she was told she would be promoted to the newly created position of NY tri-state COO and equal her West Coast counterpart, who is COO and EVP.
It also charges that Reingold
has been "stripped of many of her
former responsibilities and marginalized by company management since bringing her
The complaint notes that Underhill pulled Reingold
out of negotiations for Cushman offices Downtown, stating that the "significance" of the deal warranted Lo Russo
taking her place, and it alleges that Lo Russo
has "gone out of his way to exclude Reingold
from "key decisions and question her authority."