Elly Rosenthal v. Proskauer Rose LLP

Case Type: Employment Discrimination

Company: Proskauer Rose LLP

(October 5, 2011, New York City) – Proskauer Rose LLP – an international law firm that claims its name is ‘synonymous with labor law’ – was sued for employment discrimination today. The lawsuit was filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County, on behalf of Proskauer’s longtime female Chief Financial Officer, Elly Rosenthal.

Although Ms. Rosenthal had a nearly two-decade record of success at Proskauer and never received a single negative review, today’s Complaint asserts that she was marginalized by her male superiors and co-workers and terminated after taking medical leave to receive surgical treatment for breast cancer.

Ms. Rosenthal is represented in the matter by David Sanford, founder and Chairman of Sanford Heisler Sharp.

“After one of its most senior female employees worldwide was diagnosed with breast cancer and took cancer treatment leave, Proskauer Rose demoted and then terminated her,” said Mr. Sanford. “She was discriminated against and wrongfully discharged as a result of her gender, her age and her medical condition – which violates both New York City and New York state law.”

The Complaint asks for $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Ms. Rosenthal, now 57, is a Certified Public Accountant. She was hired as Proskauer’s CFO in 1992 and held that position in the firm’s Manhattan office for 16 years, until she was demoted to “Chief Administrative Financial Officer” in September 2008. During her tenure as CFO, Ms. Rosenthal managed global financial functions for the firm and a staff of more than 70 employees. Under her leadership, the firm grew to more than 700 attorneys, generating some $675 million in annual revenue. In her final five years at Proskauer, profits per partner increased by 40%. In addition, she was frequently recognized by the firm for her outstanding performance and strong relationships.

In November 2007, Ms. Rosenthal was diagnosed with breast cancer, for which she received treatment in early 2008, including two rounds of surgery. She initially returned to work in March 2008, just a few weeks after her final surgery, before deciding to take a further 3-month medical leave to complete her recovery. At the time she took this leave, she was told by Proskauer’s Chairman Allen Fagin, “there will always be a place for you” at Proskauer.

According to the Complaint, when Ms. Rosenthal returned to Proskauer in August 2008, Proskauer’s COO Art Gurwitz and other male administrators began a concerted effort to force her out of the firm. The first step was replacing her with a less qualified male CFO. Proskauer subsequently moved her into a new position with less authority and responsibility and a campaign was orchestrated to undermine her authority, including cutting her pay, refusing to pay her a bonus or merit pay, and relocating her office to a secondary location away from the firm’s main offices.

The culmination of Proskauer’s discrimination occurred when she was summarily terminated by COO Gurwitz and New York Managing Partner Bruce Leib on March 11, 2011, and told to clear out her office and be gone in three days.