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J. Crew Faces Suit Over Discrimination, Retaliatory Firing of Disabled Executive

— January 7, 2022

They forced Ms. DiLorenzo to work through her medical leave after cochlear implant surgery.

Wigdor LLP represents Maria DiLorenzo, who until recently was Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary for J. Crew Group, LLC.  On December 16, 2021, a Complaint was filed in the Southern District of New York alleging that J. Crew unlawfully fired Ms. DiLorenzo because she became disabled and tried to assert her rights as an employee with a disability.  Also named Defendants in the lawsuit are Michael Nicholson and Libby Wadle, J. Crew’s COO and CEO, respectively.

As set forth in the lawsuit, Ms. DiLorenzo successfully led J. Crew’s legal team through the company’s debt restructuring and a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  Tragically, in the middle of the bankruptcy proceedings, Ms. DiLorenzo suffered Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss, a disabling medical condition that not only caused her to become deaf in her right ear, but also caused her to develop tinnitus and vertigo, among other things.  She needed simple, reasonable accommodations to continue performing her job.

Woman in pain; image by Matteo Vistocco, via
Woman in pain; image by Matteo Vistocco, via

As alleged in the Complaint, J. Crew and its senior executives, including Ms. Wadle and Mr. Nicholson, did not care.  They forced Ms. DiLorenzo to work through her medical leave after cochlear implant surgery and refused to engage with her about her accommodation requests, as required by law, according to the lawsuit.  Moreover, Defendants humiliated Ms. DiLorenzo because of her condition, segregating her during a board meeting so that she could hear not what was going on, as alleged.

As set forth in the Complaint, Ms. DiLorenzo’s decision to protest Defendants’ unlawful conduct and assert her rights only made things worse.  She complained to Mr. Nicholson and Human Resources about how she was treated at the board meeting, as alleged.  A few short months later, J. Crew fired Ms. DiLorenzo without any substantive reason, claiming that it was going in a “different direction,” the lawsuit alleges.  Indeed, as alleged, Mr. Nicholson thereafter admitted that J. Crew no longer wanted Ms. DiLorenzo as General Counsel because she “ha[d] now asserted claims against the Company.”

Statement from Valdi Licul, Partner at Wigdor LLP:

“J. Crew wants to reinvent itself post-bankruptcy as a modern, inclusive brand, but the way it treated Ms. DiLorenzo after she became disabled represents the complete antithesis of those ideals.  This is precisely why Congress enacted the ADA and the FMLA decades ago: to protect individuals with disabilities from workplace discrimination and abuse.  We look forward to aggressively protecting Ms. DiLorenzo’s rights during one of the most challenging times in her life.”

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