The Real Deal New York

Court rules on motion to dismiss discrimination case against Silverstein

May 30, 2012 06:45PM
By Katherine Clarke

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Silverstein Properties CEO Larry Silverstein

A New York State Supreme Court judge has denied a motion to dismiss several causes of action in a discrimination lawsuit filed by former Silverstein Properties executive Catherine Giliberti against her former employer, paving the way for the case to continue, according to court records filed today.

But the judge, Manuel Mendez, did dismiss one key cause of action, which would have allowed Giliberti to claim damages on the $1.6 million in ownership interests she forfeited when she was fired from the firm.

Giliberti filed suit against the firm in October, claiming that her dismissal was prompted solely by her age — she was 55 at the time — and gender. Giliberti, who worked at the firm from 1987 to 1991 and later from 1996 till 2008, oversaw leasing for the firm’s entire 6.7 million-square-foot downtown portfolio, which includes 7 World Trade Center. She was the only female in a senior management role at the time aside from Silverstein’s daughter, according to the complaint.

Giliberti was terminated by Silverstein in 2008, and claims she was replaced by 35-year-old Jeremy Moss, who had been vice president for commercial development and leasing at Forest City Ratner Companies.

“We don’t comment on pending litigation, but Silverstein Properties prides itself on its tremendous employee morale, and has been recognized with awards for being a great place to work,” Dara McQuillan, a spokesperson for Silverstein, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, like any company, we sometimes have employees that leave on less-than-perfect terms.”

Giliberti alleged in the complaint that she was repeatedly marginalized at the company because she was female. At a corporate retreat where current COO Mickey Kupperman was introduced to the team, Kupperman conducted separate meetings with all the male attendees and excluded Giliberti, she claims. Then, “when Kupperman subsequently established committees to deal with various issues raised at the retreat, he asked all attendees except Ms. Giliberti to identify the committee they preferred,” the complaint said.

Giliberti also claims that she was offered less favorable terms on derivative interests in two Silverstein properties, 120 Broadway and 120 Wall Street, than some of the firm’s male employees. While Giliberti’s interests were subject to forfeiture if she left the company for reasons other than disability, retirement or death, at least one male employee was allowed to maintain some of his interests even in the event of his position being terminated, she alleged in the complaint.

As a result of this arrangement, Giliberti claims she lost interests worth over $1.6 million when she was fired, according to the filing. But the judge dismissed her claims in regards to the interests because the statute of limitations on the equity agreements she signed with Silverstein has expired.

Silverstein is now expected to file an answer to the complaint.

Giliberti’s attorney, Rosalind Fink of the law firm Brill & Meisel, was not immediately available for comment.

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