Jay Badame accuses AECOM of age discrimination, inflating profits

Lawsuit alleges Badame was wrongly fired after sounding alarm

Jay Badame Sues AECOM Over Firing
AECOM’s Troy Rudd and Jay Badame (Getty, KPF, Healthcare Chaplaincy/YouTube)

A veteran construction executive says AECOM fired him after he raised the alarm about the company inflating earnings and because the company decided it needed a younger workforce. 

Jay Badame, who abruptly left the company last year, filed a lawsuit against the construction giant, alleging that he was demoted and then fired after objecting to the firm’s reporting practices, which posted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, known as EBITDA. He also alleged that his termination was the result of age discrimination. 

Badame, who is 67, claims AECOM had a contractual obligation to pay a portion of funds from clients to its employees in the form of fringe benefits or bonuses. Instead, according to the lawsuit, the company reported those funds as profits in filings with the Securities Exchange Commission. The lawsuit alleges that $100 million of such funds were wrongfully diverted. 

Badame raised his concerns about this practice with leaders at the infrastructure juggernaut, but he was not taken seriously and subsequently faced retaliation, according to the lawsuit.  

AECOM indicated that it disagrees with the claims and “will defend [against] the lawsuit vigorously.”

“AECOM is committed to operating at the highest standards of ethics and integrity in all we do, including responsibly serving our clients and fostering a workplace where all are treated with dignity and respect,” a spokesperson said in a statement. 

Badame worked for AECOM and its subsidiaries for nearly 40 years, having joined Tishman Construction in 1985 as a project engineer when he was 27 years old. He stayed with the company when it was acquired by AECOM in 2010. He was promoted to president of the firm’s construction management brands, Tishman and Hunt, in 2019, signing a three-year employment agreement.

In December 2022, Badame alleges, AECOM CEO Troy Rudd gave him a “developing” rating on his annual performance review, when he had only ever received the two highest ratings of “outstanding” and “strong.” The reasons Rudd gave for the downgrade, according to Badame, were “ginned up” and were due to “certain unattainable and arbitrary goals,” according to the lawsuit.

During the review, Rudd also cited Badame’s objections to the firing of AECOM’s 69-year-old general counsel in 2022, according to the lawsuit. The company similarly gave that employee a “developing” rating before instructing Badame to fire her, the complaint states. 

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Leading up to this review, Rudd allegedly told Badame and others that the company was going to “dramatically increase turnover” in AECOM’s construction management division because that group had the “oldest average age and lowest turnover rate within AECOM.” 

At the end of his employment agreement on Dec. 31, 2022, Badame was not offered another contract but continued to serve as president as an at-will employee. At that point, it turns out, his days were numbered. 

In May 2023, AECOM announced that it was tapping Bob Hart, a 35-year veteran with the company, to serve as the new president, and that Badame would become his executive adviser. The company also tapped John Korvac and Eric Reid as executive vice presidents and co-leads of Tishman Construction’s New York operations. The lawsuit notes that all three executives were “significantly younger” than Badame: Hart was in his 50s and the other two were in their 40s.  

The lawsuit also alleges that after his demotion, Badame witnessed at least two other instances where AECOM did not want employees in their early 70s working on a project and even indicated that it wanted younger workers. One of those cases resulted in an internal age discrimination complaint and an internal investigation, according to the complaint.

Less than one week after Badame was interviewed as part of that investigation, in August 2023, he was fired without warning or severance, according to the lawsuit.   

AECOM Tishman is one of the most active construction management firms in New York City, and ranked first on TRD’s ranking of the top construction managers hired for new buildings in the city last year. 

While at the company, Badame worked on several high-profile projects, including One Vanderbilt, One World Trade Center, 30 Hudson Yards and the construction start at the $10 billion redevelopment of the New Terminal One at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Badame’s role after he was demoted. He was an executive adviser.


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