NEW YORK CITY—Cedar Realty Trust CEO Bruce Schanzer has responded to former COO Nancy Mozzachio’s sexual harassment complaint. He filed a motion the evening of Dec. 18, 2017 requesting the Brooklyn Court to dismiss the case, compel arbitration and sanction Mozzachio for filing a frivolous lawsuit.
Schanzer asserts the case was filed in bad faith, inserting scandalous statements to harass and injure him. He characterizes Mozzachio’s complaint as an attempt to perpetuate a fraud on the court by omitting all mention of the previously filed arbitration.
The motion says, “This case amounts to nothing more than a calculated maneuver by Plaintiff to do an end-run around pre-existing arbitration involving precisely the same issues.”
The pleading asserts Mozzachio’s lawsuit was filed when an activist shareholder was agitating for changes at Cedar Realty, also coinciding with increased awareness of gender discrimination claims in the media. Schanzer claims the timing was to maximize the harmful impact of the complaint.
The motion states, “That Plaintiff’s motives in pursing the present action are impermissibly to harass, prejudice or harm is highlighted starkly by the fact that she still has not served Defendant with a summons—a month and a half after filing her Complaint.” It states as of the date of the motion, Mozzachio had not ostensibly made any attempt to serve the complaint or otherwise advance the action since the filing of the lawsuit.
Defendant’s Timeline - Schanzer’s motion to dismiss the complaint and compel arbitration sets forth the following dates and allegations:
February 12, 2016, Mozzachio was terminated for cause.
April 21, 2016, Mozzachio filed a demand for arbitration. Her employment agreement required her to arbitrate all employment-related claims.
Nov. 21, 2016, seven months into participating in the arbitration process, Mozzachio requested to withdraw her sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation claims from arbitration.
Nov. 22, 2016, Schanzer opposed this request. To date the arbitrator has not ruled on this request.
Sept. 29, 2017, the press reported an activist investor, Snow Park Capital Partners, had built a stake in Cedar Realty, and was urging the company to explore strategic options in including a potential sale.
Oct. 17, 2017, the arbitrator held a hearing in which Mozzachio participated.
Oct. 25, 2017, a published letter to the Cedar Realty Board urged them to explore strategic alternatives and other proposals to which the company issued a public response on the same day.
Nov. 1, 2017, the arbitrator issued a consequential decision regarding arbitration standards.
Nov. 2, 2017, in the midst of public dialogue concerning Cedar’s active shareholder, a half hour before Cedar released its earning before an earnings call, Mozzachio filed her initial complaint against Schanzer, which advanced the same allegation of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation in her demand for arbitration.
On Nov. 3, Mozzachio filed her amended complaint to include allegations of inadequate proxy disclosure and misuse of shareholder funds. Cedar flatly denied these allegations.
Mozzachio’s sexual harassment complaint - GlobeSt.com reported that Mozzachio alleged Schanzer sexually harassed her, creating a hostile work environment. Her complaint claimed Schanzer regularly leered at her breasts and made inappropriate comments, including about her breast size, and made comments to Mozzachio’s husband about performing oral sex on Nancy Mozzachio, in her presence.
The complaint alleged that other men at the company behaved inappropriately due to the sexual harassment that Schanzer condoned. Mozzachio claimed she received outstanding performance evaluations. Her lawsuit also alleged that she was paid less than the CFO counter to industry standards but when she complained, Schanzer expressed displeasure.
Mozzachio’s Response to the Motion to Dismiss the Complaint - In response to Schanzer’s motion to dismiss or compel arbitration, Mozzachio wrote to GlobeSt.com that the original verification for the claim was signed on June 16, 2017, and her attorney put Schanzer on notice of the complaint on December 22, 2016. She also stated that on February 15, 2016, she sent an email directly to Schanzer, in which she identified many of the allegations in her claim.
She added: “In response, I was singularly searched, roughed-up and wanded at the annual shareholder meeting in May 2016 simply because I dared to attend as a shareholder. This Motion is another desperate attempt to avoid shining a light on the despicable behavior by Bruce Schanzer towards me and multiple women in the company during his tenure. This bullying and intimidation must stop. I filed the claim because it was time to cut the Gordian knot.”