Reingold Files Gender, Age Discrimination Lawsuit Against C&W

Suzy Reingold, New York Tri-State Chief Operating Officer with Cushman & Wakefield, is suing the global commercial real estate services firm for $20 million in damages.
Suzy Reingold, COO at C&W

Suzy Reingold, COO at C&W suing the firm

Suzy  Reingold, New York Tri-State Chief Operating Officer with Cushman & Wakefield Inc., is suing the global commercial real estate services firm for $20 million in damages. Reingold is being represented by law firm Sanford Heisler L.L.P, which filed the employment discrimination suit in Supreme Court, New York County against C&W on her behalf.  The issue: gender and age discrimination.

In the complaint Reingold, who manages approximately 180 brokers and 190 non-brokers in the firm’s Midtown and Downtown offices, claims that C&W declined to promote her to New York Tri-State President, choosing instead to tap Ron Lo Russo, former vice president of leasing for the New York Office Division of Vornado Realty Trust for the job in February 2013.


Ron Lo Russo, of C&W

The seven-year C&W employee alleges that the company dismissed her 15 years of real estate management experience, a history of being lauded by her supervisors for her work and the company’s own policy of promoting from within, in favor of hiring an individual from the outside with no management background. She attests that she went from hearing from C&W CEO of the Americas Jim Underhill that the “job is yours,” to reading Underhill’s comment to the press about  “a young guy coming in to run a significant part of our business.” Reingold is 66 years old; Lo Russo is 38.

Additionally, Reingold claims that, while her employers saw fit to praise her performance, they chose to pay her less than male employees in comparable positions.

And then there’s the issue of how her grievance about being passed over for the position of New York Tri-State President had been received in the workplace. “Ms. Reingold continues to do her job to the best of her ability. She went to work as usual [Monday]. As we allege in the complaint, since Ms. Reingold made her complaint to the company, she has been retaliated against in ways including but not limited to being marginalized by management and having her responsibilities diminished,” Deborah Marcuse, Senior Litigation Counsel with Sanford Heisler, told Commercial Property Executive.

In a nutshell, Reingold is accusing C&W of violating 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 with regard to equal pay for equal work, retaliation in the workplace, pay discrimination, and promotion discrimination. The $20 million in damages she is seeking is for back pay, unpaid wages, liquidated damages, compensatory damages and punitive damages.

C&W has something to say. In a statement, the firm declared, “These allegations are completely without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously.” Beyond that, as a matter of policy the company does not comment on the specifics of pending litigation.  However, the firm did exalt Lo Russo in the statement, adding, “Ron Lo Russo, President, NY Tri-state region, has brought incredible leadership to this role, recently hiring a number of new leaders and spearheading a new Professional Real Estate Program (PREP). 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.”

Claims of gender discrimination in the workplace are nothing new and with the U.S. population living longer and working longer, the issue of age is not going away. Marcuse believes age discrimination is only going to increase. “We are already seeing it,” she added. “And the interplay of age and gender discrimination that you see in this case and we’ve certainly seen in other cases is also quite common, such that often women over 40 have it worse than either younger women or men over 40.”

Ageism, gender bias–as it pertains to Reingold and C&W, it’s now a matter for the courts.  Still, others will judge. Marcuse concluded, “It’s a tough industry, especially in New York, and it takes a very strong person to come forward and say, ‘This is wrong.'”