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Wafra Wins Affirmance of High-Stakes State Employment Discrimination Claim Dismissal

Paul, Weiss achieved a significant victory in New York State court for investment management firm Wafra Inc. when the Appellate Division, First Department unanimously affirmed the New York State Supreme Court’s dismissal of a $45 million age discrimination suit filed by its former head of real estate Francis Lively against Wafra and its CEO.

In April 2021, Lively sued Wafra in state court, alleging that Wafra used a sexual harassment complaint and a subsequent investigation as pretext to improperly terminate him on the basis of his age, thereby denying him millions of dollars in unearned salary and carried interest compensation. Lively also alleged that Wafra retaliated against him for supposedly reporting an age-related comment made to him by Wafra’s CEO.

In January 2022, New York County Supreme Court Justice Lynn R. Kotler granted Paul, Weiss’s motion to dismiss, finding that the complaint “failed to state any prima facie claim” of age discrimination or retaliation. On December 6, 2022, the First Department unanimously affirmed Justice Kotler’s dismissal of the entire action, which also included claims for unjust enrichment, defamation, negligence and tortious interference with prospective business relations. The First Department held that the complaint “fail[ed] to plead a causal connection” between Lively’s allegations of discriminatory conduct and his termination, even under the liberally construed notice pleading standards of the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

The First Department’s decision marked the fourth time that Paul, Weiss has successfully argued for dismissal of Lively’s claims. In July 2020, U.S. District Judge H. Paul Oetken granted Wafra’s motion for judgment on the pleadings on Lively’s federal age discrimination claims and denied a motion to amend the complaint. In July 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously affirmed the dismissal.

Litigation partner Brette Tannenbaum argued the appeal. The Paul, Weiss team also included litigation of counsel Martin Flumenbaum.

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