Cresa settles gender, sexual discrimination suit with broker

Principal at center of the complaint still working at firm

Jamie Addeo and James Pirot (Credit: Cresa and Twitter)
Jamie Addeo and James Pirot (Credit: Cresa and Twitter)

Cresa has reached a settlement with a former office-leasing broker who accused the firm’s principals of sexual harassment and lewd and discriminatory conduct.

Last summer, Jamie Addeo, then a vice president in the tenant-focused commercial brokerage’s New York office, filed a lawsuit claiming that “the work environment within Cresa is openly hostile toward women and geared toward promoting and advancing only male employees.”

Addeo alleged she was subject to a “slew of retaliatory and further discriminatory acts” in an effort to force her out of the firm. After filing a complaint against the principals in February 2017, she claimed she was removed from a key account and other business opportunities.

The lawsuit named three managing principals: James Pirot, Matthew Feeney and Eric Thomas.

It particularly zeroed in on Pirot — who has worked in the industry for more than three decades and joined Cresa in 2013 — for alleged discriminatory behavior. Addeo, who is bisexual, claimed Pirot undermined her ability to advance by subjecting her to discriminatory treatment and failing to pay her on par with her male, straight colleagues. She alleged she was repeatedly denied a promotion to principal despite her several requests to Pirot. The suit also alleged that Pirot made several disparaging comments about lesbians in Addeo’s presence, including arguing that lesbians are “a waste of good-looking women” and repeatedly saying “fucking dykes.”

The terms of the settlement were not clear. A stipulation of discontinuance filed in New York State Supreme Court last month shows the suit was discontinued with prejudice and without costs.

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Pirot continues to work there as the managing principal for project management. As for the other managing principals who were named as the defendants, Thomas has worked at Cushman & Wakefield since October and Feeney is still based in Cresa’s Philadelphia office.

The Real Deal first reported on the lawsuit in January. A month later, Addeo, who had been Cresa for nearly a decade, left the firm and has continued to operate her own Long Island City-based leasing company the Addeo Group, according to her LinkedIn profile. The Addeo Group is a licensed brokerage and has four active agents, Department of State records show.

After the January story ran, Cresa CEO Jim Underhill told TRD that the brokerage conducted an internal investigation of her allegations and, after finding no wrongdoing, denied them.

Addeo declined to comment on the settlement. The three accused principals did not respond to requests for comment, nor did the firm.

Cresa currently has one female managing principal in its New York office, Jane Roundell. Addeo’s suit also claimed that Pirot, in front of other staffers, said he did not know why “this old bitch” — referring to Roundell — was on the executive team.

Some real estate players tout the brokerage industry as a meritocracy, in part because of its commission-based structure. But an analysis by TRD in January found that of the top 20 largest commercial brokerages in New York City, only three come close to having an even split of male and female brokers.

Addeo’s suit echoes other complaints being brought to light across all spheres of corporate America as a result of the #MeToo movement. Real estate figures such as hotelier Andre Balazs, architect Richard Meier and casino tycoon Steve Wynn have been at the center of alleged sexual misconduct scandals in recent months. Wynn resigned from his company following the allegations, while Meier took a leave of absence.