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Mass. Court Rules Against Cushman & Wakefield In Age Discrimination Suit

The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts awarded a former Cushman & Wakefield employee $1.28M on Friday in a lawsuit against his old company for wrongful termination based on age.

Gavel, court, attorney, law

Yury Rinsky, now 65, was fired in July of 2015 after spending over a month in Boston working remotely while awaiting a permanent transfer to C&W’s office there. A Massachusetts jury ruled that Cushman & Wakefield illegally fired him because of his age.

“They were looking for an opportunity to phase out his employment at the same time they were phasing out the aging computer system he was working on,” Mark Szal, Rinky’s attorney, said.

The jury awarded Rinsky $290K in back pay, $135K in front pay and $850K in punitive damages. Szal said it was fair compensation; it accounted for the salary, bonus and benefits he would have received between his termination and three more years he expected to work until his planned retirement. 

Rinsky spent 27 years working in C&W’s IT department, a vast majority of which was in the company’s Manhattan office. He most recently served as a software engineer on the 25-year-old AS400 computer system the company was beginning to phase out. After seeing how his managing director, Colin Reid, was able to transfer to the company’s Miami office in early 2015 by simply making a verbal request to his boss, Andrew Hamilton, Rinsky said he decided to transfer to Boston where he intended to move after a planned retirement at the age of 67.

Mass. Court Rules Against Cushman & Wakefield In Age Discrimination Suit
John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse, where most U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts cases are heard

He alleged Reid approved the move after speaking with Hamilton. Rinsky moved to Boston on May 27, 2015, and worked remotely under the impression upper management was making space arrangements for him in the Boston office. 

Instead, while on a conference call with Reid and Hamilton on June 22, 2015, Rinsky said the two reneged on the transfer approval. He claimed Hamilton angrily told him to go back to the Manhattan office to work full time or resign. After he refused to do either, he was terminated the next month for job abandonment. 

This was not Rinsky’s only run-in with upper management. He alleged Reid took him into a conference room after he returned from a cycle of chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma in 2009 and said, “if you take more time off for treatments, we won’t be able to employ you.”

While Rinsky said a similar encounter and threat to his job security occurred in 2013, the jury did not find his illness to be a factor in C&W severing its ties with him. Judge Allison Burroughs presided over the case.

This is not the company’s first discrimination suit in recent years. Suzy Reingold, a former chief operating officer of the firm’s New York Tri-State region, filed a $20M lawsuit claiming she was passed over for a promised promotion as a result of gender and age discrimination. The parties later stipulated to dismiss the case. Maria Sicola, a former head of research at the company, filed a $40M age and gender bias suit after she said she was let go just before her 60th birthday and replaced with a 39-year-old male. Hong Mei "Janice" Lee filed a $4M suit in New York Supreme Court last year, saying C&W demoted and then fired her before replacing her with a younger white male with less experience.

Cushman & Wakefield declined to comment.