Former Firm Attorney Sues for Sex-based Discrimination

August 2, 2006 ( - A former attorney of Cendant Corp.'s Coldwell Banker real estate unit is suing the company for sexual discrimination, claiming her complaints of unfair treatment of women were ignored and then she was fired.

According to the suit filed July 21, Lisa Biase said her supervisors made disparaging remarks to her, ignored her advice, and refused to investigate her claims that she and other women were mistreated, Bloomberg reports.

Biase told Bloomberg that 15 to 20 women within the company complained of sex discrimination. Her suit specifically targets alleged treatment by Jeffrey Wheeler, who became chief operating officer at Coldwell Banker in June 2004, according to the news report. Biase claims Wheeler started ignoring her advice, making comments such as “You give excellent advice, for a woman.”

A senior vice president in the legal department, when addressing Biase’s complaints, suggested she change her behavior. He claimed he had performed an informal investigation and concluded Biase was “difficult to work with.” He also questioned whether she had “the right DNA to change,” according to the suit.

After her meeting with the senior vice president, Biase learned that other women in the company had been treated in a similar manner by males in senior management. She then requested in writing that the company investigate her sexual bias complaint and handed over names of other female workers who had complained.

Biase claims that the day after handing over the names of the other women, Cendant offered her a “separation agreement to leave the company.” She rejected the offer and pushed for an investigation.

Following that, Biase claims her role in the company was “marginalized”, her pay was reduced, and she received a “below expectations” performance evaluation.

Biase filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on March 17. She was fired on April 17. The EEOC declined to file a lawsuit on Biase’s behalf.

Biase filed suit under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and its Conscientious Employee Protection Act, seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, in addition to lost wages and attorneys’ fees.

The suit is Lisa A. Biase v. Cendant, Superior Court of New Jersey (Hudson County), L-3546-06.