The Real Deal New York

Edgy design king Peter Marino accused of sexism, racism by former employee

Ex-office manager says architect routinely called women the C-word

December 04, 2015 01:35PM
By Katherine Clarke

Peter Marino

Peter Marino

Peter Marino, the leather-clad design guru known for revamping the homes of billionaires, is being accused by a former employee of being sexist, racist and offensive.

Deirdre O’Brien, a former office manager at Marino’s firm, alleges in a new lawsuit that Marino regularly referred to female employees as “c****” and made racist statements about black people.

A spokesperson for Marino declined to comment directly on the allegations, filed Thursday in New York State Supreme Court.

“Deirdre worked with out company for 15 years and chose to resign,” she said. “The company wishes her well.”

O’Brien claims she was called into a meeting on Oct. 26 to discuss the rearrangement of the office’s seating plan with Marino, company COO Craig Greenberg and CFO Scott Lohr.

O’Brien alleges that Marino became “irate” at her suggestions during the meeting, eventually becoming aggressive.

“[He] slammed his fist onto the desk – making a loud crash as his heavy silver rings struck his desk” and eventually ordered her out of his office, the suit states. As O’Brien walked out, Marino allegedly said to the other men, “She is a c***.”

O’Brien claims in the suit that when she confronted Marino about his words, he called her “a cow.” She then complained to the firm’s human resources department, the suit claims, and threatened to leave the firm, handing in her keys. She claims, however, that she never did officially quit.

O’Brien is now claiming unfair dismissal after the firm refused to let her return to her job following the incident, causing her to lose her income. HR also ignored her emails, she said. The suit states that she was an employee there for 14 years.

The former office manager said in the suit that she was not the only victim of Marino’s allegedly discriminatory behavior. At one point, he allegedly said to O’Brien that “Koreans are ugly with their half-noses.”

“Marino is as adept at creating an intimidating and bullying culture targeting women and people of color on the inside of his company as he is at creating an edgy architectural esthetic on the outside,” the suit states. “Given that he was the owner and boss, no action was ever taken about his behavior.”

The lawsuit comes on the heels of what’s been a banner year for Marino’s business. The designer, who’s crafted stores for the likes of Chanel and Fendi, recently scored an assignment to design luxury brand Bulgari’s new store at the Crown Building on Fifth Avenue. He’s also the architect for Michael Shvo’s 12-story High Line-adjacent condo, at 239 Tenth Avenue.