The Real Deal New York

Ex-GFI employee claims she was fired for complaining about sexist comments

JoEllen Donner says men openly made "graphic and lewd" remarks
By Kathryn Brenzel | December 13, 2016 06:01PM

A former employer of Allen Gross’ GFI Capital Resources claims she was wrongfully fired after she complained about sexual and derogatory comments made about women in the office.

JoEllen Donner filed a lawsuit against the developer and her supervisor in Manhattan Federal Court on Monday for alleged sexual harassment and gender discrimination,

Donner claims she was fired in September after she’d complained about inappropriate comments made by men in the office. She’d worked for eight months at the company’s insurance brokerage as a client consultant. According to the suit, she was told at the time of her dismissal that management was unhappy with the revenue she was bringing in.

She alleges that men in the office “openly had graphic and lewd conversations in the workplace about sex and women’s bodies.” She claims that her male colleagues would share tips about “picking up women” and would swap pictures of women who they thought were attractive. According to the lawsuit, when Donner complained about the remarks, her supervisor, Vincent Vieni, laughed and said “guys are like this.”

A representative for GFI didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

When another male colleague refused to make cold calls to clients, Vieni allegedly told Donner that men don’t make those sort of calls. Vieni said women are better suited to making the calls because they are “more domesticated,” the lawsuit claims. Donner also claims she was forced to take handwritten notes on client leads but that Vieni didn’t require the same task from her male counterparts.

“You’re a woman, so taking notes and keeping track of things isn’t hard for you,” Vieni allegedly said. “It’s natural for women to organize things. You’re used to it from being home raising kids.”

GFI, which does both brokerage and real estate development, is behind the redevelopment of Temple Court at 5 Beekman Street.