Ex-Cushman recruiter claims firm passed her over for promotion due to pregnancy

She was subsequently terminated

Paula Thorby (Credit: Pixabay)
Paula Thorby (Credit: Pixabay)

A former recruiter for Cushman & Wakefield claims that after repeatedly being promised a permanent position at the brokerage she was snubbed for a job because she became pregnant.

Paula Thorby on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against her former firm, alleging that she was passed over for promotion earlier this year shortly after notifying her bosses of her pregnancy. After complaining about such discrimination, Thorby was fired, the lawsuit claims.

Representatives for Cushman declined to comment. The lawsuit also named as defendants Danielle Dutcher, Cushman’s manager of talent acquisition; and Stanley Telford, vice president of talent acquisition.

Thorby started working for Cushman as a temporary recruiter in April 2013 and accepted a permanent role in September 2014, according to the lawsuit. She briefly left in March 2016 to take another job but then returned three months later.

At the time, Cushman didn’t have any open permanent positions, but the firm repeatedly assured Thorby that she’d eventually transition back into a full-time role, the lawsuit claims. The firm’s treatment of Thorby allegedly started to change soon after she notified her bosses that she was pregnant.

She informed Dutcher that she was pregnant in October 2017 to which Dutcher “inappropriately” replied: “When are you due?” according to the lawsuit. Dutcher then instructed Thorby to come into the office three to four times a week, a demand that wasn’t made of the other recruiters who all continued to work remotely, the complaint states.

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Still, when a permanent senior recruiter position became available, Thorby was allegedly told that she was the only candidate being considered for the job. She went through three rounds of interviews for the position, but on the third, two of the interviewers abruptly canceled, according to the complaint. Thorby remained confident that she’d be offered the job, due to her experience and the assurances of her bosses.

In January of this year, Thorby was diagnosed with placenta previa, meaning that she was a high-risk pregnancy and would need to temporarily go on disability, according to the lawsuit. Thorby informed Dutcher of her condition on January 2, and the next day, she received a call saying that Cushman decided to hire an external candidate for the senior recruiter role. She was told that she’d maintain her current role “indefinitely.” She was also allegedly reassigned to focus on interns and entry-level positions, considered a demotion since Thorby had previously recruited mid- to senior-level positions.

Thorby complained to the firm that she felt her treatment was a form of discrimination, but Cushman officials ultimately determined on January 11 that “no wrongdoing” had occurred, according to the complaint. The next day, January 12, Thorby was informed that her temporary role would come to an end by the end of the year. An attorney for Thorby, Rachel Allen, indicated that Cushman has since set that date for October 9.

Thorby filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in February 2018 and received the go-ahead from the agency to file a lawsuit in August.

Last month, Cushman was hit with a separate discrimination lawsuit by a former executive who claimed that her career was held back due to her race and gender. An analysis done by The Real Deal earlier this year showed that women accounted for only 21 percent of Cushman’s workforce in New York City.