Shearman & Sterling LLP targeted its 62-year-old global manager of facilities and audiovisual infrastructure as the first worker to be let go in Covid-19-related layoffs because of his age, a new lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan charges.
Mark Kanyuk says the firm tried to cover its age discrimination by falsely accusing him of accepting kickbacks from vendors he dealt with as part of his job. But it never provided him with “a single detail” of his allegedly unethical behavior or a chance to defend himself, he alleges in the suit filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Instead, he was fired the same day and given a mere two weeks severance pay despite his 25 years of service to the firm during which he never received a negative job review, the suit says. He had just been promoted to his current position in 2019, Kanyuk says.
That Shearman & Sterling’s real motive was age bias is evidenced by his direct supervisor’s practice of frequently calling Kanyuk “old man,” the suit says. Other co-workers made jokes about Kanyuk’s age after noticing his employee ID number, which indicated how long he had been with the firm. the complaint says.
Kanyuk was the second oldest employee in Shearman & Sterling’s global technology solutions department at the time, according to the suit.
Needing to reduce costs and to cut jobs “in the era of Covid 19,” Shearman & Sterling “chose to start the layoffs with one of its oldest and most committed employees,” in violation of federal, state, and city anti-bias laws, the suit says.
Shearman & Sterling denied the suit’s allegations.
“We have not made any layoffs at the firm—whether in relation to COVID-19 or anything else,” a spokesperson said. “Mr Kanyuk was terminated for cause, on the basis of substantial evidence of inappropriate conduct in the performance of his job.”
“The plaintiff’s allegations are completely without merit and the firm will contest them vigorously,” the firm said.
Causes of Action: Age Discrimination in Employment Act; New York State Human Rights Law; New York City Human Rights Law.
Relief: Back pay, front pay, and compensatory, liquidated, and punitive damages; attorneys’ fees, expert witness fees, and other litigation costs.
Attorneys: Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP represents Kanyuk.
The case is Kanyuk v. Shearman & Sterling LLP, S.D.N.Y., No. 1:20-cv-03567, complaint filed 5/7/20.