The Real Deal New York

Former Cushman exec files $40M gender discrimination suit

Maria Sicola claims she wrongfully lost job to former DTZ chief economist

October 06, 2015 02:45PM

Maria Sicola Kevin Thorpe

From left: Maria Sicola and Kevin Thorpe

Cushman & Wakefield is facing its second gender discrimination suit from a top female executive in two years after Maria Sicola, the brokerage’s former head of research for its Americas division, filed a $40 million lawsuit Tuesday.

Sicola was fired Oct. 2, the day before her 60th birthday, after nearly 35 years with Cushman & Wakefield. She was replaced by Kevin Thorpe, 39, who previously served as chief economist for DTZ – the global brokerage that closed its $2 billion merger with Cushman & Wakefield last month.

While Sicola had been expected by many to be the top pick for the global head of research position at the new, post-merger Cushman, the complaint claims the brokerage instead replaced her with Thorpe, who had “no management or global experience in his prior role as Chief Economist for DTZ.”

Sicola’s termination came into effect one day before she was to attend the annual Urban Land Institute (ULI) Conference, where she had organized a collaboration to promote Cushman’s recently launched Women’s Integrated Network, according to Real Estate Weekly.

Cushman told her not to attend the conference and sent her replacement, Thorpe, to fill in for her at the event, according to the complaint.

“Ms. Sicola’s unceremonious termination is textbook discrimination,” David Sanford of Sanford Heisler Kimpel LLP, which is representing Sicola, said in a release. “[Cushman] passed her up for promotion and terminated her in favor of a younger and less qualified male employee.”

The lawsuit comes two years after former Cushman executive Suzy Reingold filed a $20 million lawsuit against the brokerage in October 2013. Reingold alleged age and gender discrimination after being passed over for president of Cushman’s New York Tri-State region office.

The brokerage instead hired Ron Lo Russo from Vornado Realty Trust for the position. Lo Russo continues to head the office in wake of Cushman’s merger with DTZ, while Reingold left the firm last year. [REW]Rey Mashayekhi