“From one day to the next, he stripped me of everything:” Sexual harassment lawsuits against LA landlord set off legal battle

Marc Menowitz, whose firm owns nearly 20K apartment units, has sued the 2 women who filed sexual harassment lawsuits against him

August 30, 2019 02:00 PM
Inset: Alice Vysata (Credit: Wikipedia, iStock)
Inset: Alice Vysata (Credit: Wikipedia, iStock)

In June 2017, the founder of a Los Angeles-based multifamily property firm sent an arrangement of flowers to a female employee.

“I was going to get you sex toys, but you have all the latest and greatest…Wish you were in L.A.,” the founder, Marc Menowitz, allegedly told the woman, Alice Vysata. A year later, Vysata and another female employee, Kinga Tabares, filed separate sexual harassment lawsuits against Menowitz. Among the allegations, they claimed the owner of the Miracle Mile-based firm solicited naked photos from them, propositioned them and withheld commissions when they refused his advances.

Those lawsuits, filed in Los Angeles, are still ongoing. But this year, Menowitz has filed 10 lawsuits of his own against the two women.

His complaints, filed from July 2018 to May in California, Texas and Florida, primarily seek to recover commissions he alleges were wrongfully earned. Menowitz also denies both women’s allegations of sexual harassment. In the case of the flower arrangement sent to Vysata — who was in Florida at the time — he alleged in one of the lawsuits: “any writings speak for themselves.”

Menowitz’s Apartment Rental Assistance II operates roughly 18,000 rental units across 22 states, including L.A. complexes in Mid-City, Fairfax, Compton and Harbor City. His lawyer declined to comment for this article.

All but one of the lawsuits Menowitz filed is against Vysata, who was fired as director of acquisitions. The other is against Tabares, his personal assistant until she was let go.

Vysata’s attorney, Dan Kalish, said Menowitz’s strategy of filing numerous suits in different states is meant to “essentially bankrupt her so she has to dismiss her lawsuit.” He added that Menowitz’s claims that the commissions should be returned are “of course absurd.” Vysata earned the commissions as an employee, Kalish said, and is therefore entitled to them.

Vysata said she is undeterred by Menowitz’s lawsuits and intends “to fight it all the way through.”

“From one day to the next, he stripped me of everything, demoted me, banned me from the office and took everything I dedicated myself to for seven years,” she said in an interview with The Real Deal. “I want to make sure that not only do I get what’s rightfully mine and owed to me, but also that this doesn’t happen again.”

Her story dates back to 2011, when Vysata was hired as an intern. She quickly climbed the ranks, and became a top producer at the firm, according to the suit. In her seven years there, Vysata alleges she received unwanted advances from Menowitz “weekly.” In some instances, he would request she “dress sexy” or “send dirty pictures.”

She was ultimately fired in February 2018, at which point Menowitz allegedly withheld $140,000 in commissions she’d earned from two property sales that had recently closed. The money would be released if she agreed to “finalize the separation” with a “mutual agreement” that would relinquish claims against Menowitz, the lawsuit states. She refused.

Since Vysata filed her lawsuit last summer, Menowitz filed nine different complaints or petitions against her through a variety of his shell companies, court documents show.

The suits aim to recover commissions Vysata earned “illegally” when she didn’t have a valid real estate broker’s license and was allegedly performing brokerage services, according to the filings. Four of the lawsuits Menowitz filed were in Florida — where Vysata now lives — three in Texas and two in California. Some of the shell companies have Texas addresses.

Roughly half his lawsuits have been dismissed, according to Kalish. Menowitz is appealing those, he added. The remaining suits have not been heard by a judge.

Menowitz also filed a counter complaint alleging “tortious interference with prospective economic advantage” against Tabares, who had also accused him of sexual harassment and wrongful termination. Tabares’ attorney said the court dismissed Menowitz’s counterclaim, which he is now appealing.

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