- The former CFO of New York-based law firm Anderson Kill is seeking damages and costs from his previous employer after alleging that the firm forced him out, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
- Paul Schwartz, a 20-year veteran of the firm who has served as its CFO since 2015, alleges that Anderson Kill pushed him to return to work before he was ready following a fall in 2022 where he suffered a concussion, before firing him in violation of state discrimination laws.
- Schwartz is seeking damages including in the form of lost wages and bonuses, “for discriminating and retaliating against him based on disability, age, and gender; failure to accommodate; and retaliation,” the complaint said, which also names the firm’s executive director, George Anderson, and, Dona Kahn, of counsel in the company’s New York office as defendants.
Schwartz, 65, is seeking damages in the form of back pay, front pay, and lost benefits, “including, among other things, in the amount of the wages and bonuses it is determined that the Plaintiff lost as a result of the Defendants’ unlawful, discriminatory and retaliatory conduct,” the complaint filed by his attorneys, Young & Ma LLP said.
He suffered a physical injury and neurological injury in February 2022 and, after some time off, Schwartz began to get “harassing communications from his employers to return to work before he was ready,” the complaint said. He then tapped an attorney to begin the process of requesting reasonable accommodations in order to return to his role, upon which Anderson Kill “immediately suggested that Mr. Schwartz needed to end his employment.”
Schwartz joined Anderson Kill in 2002, where he served as its controller and director of financial services before being appointed to the CFO seat. He was terminated on June 24, 2022 and filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Nov. 9, 2022. Schwartz is now serving as director of finance for Cohen, Weiss and Simon, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Before Schwartz’s injury, after which he was treated for post-concussion syndrome, there was “absolutely no suggestion” that he would be terminated from his position, having received a $75,000 bonus in 2020 as well as $80,000 bonus the subsequent year for actions including helping to effectively manage a remote operation and driving firm profitability, the complaint said.
Despite these bonuses, Schwartz and Anderson Kill also clashed regarding remote work during those years. Due to his health and age, Schwartz did not come into the office physically for a period between March 2020 and June 2021, and though he had a medical note, the firm was “unhappy about this purely due to optics,” the complaint said.
Following repeated pressure to return to work after his 2022 injury, Schwartz — whose doctor recommended he not return to work until May of that year — asked for reasonable accommodations including reduced flexible hours, the ability to take a partial or full day off on short notice and additional time to complete tasks.
In May, the firm demoted Schwartz from CFO to billing manager, with an annual salary of $122,900, including a customary bonus of between $5,000-$7,500. This compares to the $302,000 annual salary Schwartz received as CFO as well as a “proven bonus history” of $75,000-$80,000.
The firm noted that “in any event, we can no longer hold open the CFO position and need to terminate Paul at this time if he doesn’t accept the billing position,” the complaint alleges. The firm terminated Schwartz’s employment in the CFO position within days of receiving his first formal reasonable accommodation request, according to the complaint.
Robert Horkovich, the managing shareholder for Anderson Kill, said in an email to CFO Dive that “the allegations in the lawsuit are baseless and we expect to prevail fully.”
This is not the first time the law firm has demoted or reduced the salary of an employee, the complaint further alleges. Upon Schwartz’s original hiring in 2022, Anderson Kill demoted its previous senior controller, Barbara Ryan, to assistant controller at a 50% salary reduction, “showing the Firm’s method of termination is massive reduction of salary … so that the long term employee would have incentive to resign.”
Young & Ma declined to offer further comment, deciding to “let the complaint speak for itself for now,” the firm said in an email to CFO Dive.