Law360 (June 2, 2021, 6:05 PM EDT) -- The former general counsel for a New York plastic surgery practice filed a discrimination suit Wednesday alleging the practice wrongly furloughed him while he was hospitalized for COVID-19, and then refused to rehire him due to his long-term virus symptoms.
Scott Edelman sued Aristocrat Plastic Surgery PC, which operates two plastic surgery practices in midtown Manhattan and Long Island, and its owner and lead surgeon Kayvon Tehrani in New York federal court. He alleged that their decision to terminate him when he suffered from "long-haul" coronavirus last spring violated New York state and city human rights laws and the Rehabilitation Act.
Edelman, who had been APS' vice president of business affairs and general counsel since 2013, said he told Tehrani in March 2020 that he'd been hospitalized for COVID-19 and put on supplemental oxygen. Just a few days later, Edelman said, he was informed that he was among a group of APS employees being furloughed, even though many workers directly below him kept their jobs.
"Diagnosed with COVID-19, lying in a hospital bed, barely able to [breathe], and afraid for his life, Scott Edelman received a text message from his employer on March 22: APS was 'temporarily' laying him off," the complaint said. "Tehrani decided to keep on several APS employees with responsibilities overseen by Edelman. But with Edelman in the hospital, Tehrani excluded him."
Edelman said he was discharged from the hospital April 6, 2020, but developed long-haul COVID-19 and continued to suffer the effects of the illness. He said he kept Tehrani updated about his condition.
But rather than offering him any accommodations, Edelman alleged, Tehrani called him on May 20 and told him that he would not be rehired when APS brought back the rest of its furloughed staff in June.
"Neither Tehrani nor any other APS employee engaged in any form of interactive process or cooperative dialogue to discuss possible accommodations that might have allowed Edelman to return to work then or in the future," he said.
To make matters worse, Edelman alleged, APS had been violating New York labor law and breaching his contract for years before the alleged discrimination by withholding commissions he was owed under his employment agreement.
According to Edelman, he'd been promised a 10% commission on any yearly revenue that surpassed $3.5 million when he agreed to join the company from a previous law firm partnership in July 2013.
While he did receive a $61,300 payment after the company brought in a total of $4.1 million in 2014, Edelman said, he was never again paid the promised annual commission, despite helping the company more than double its revenues over his nearly seven-year tenure.
"Edelman went to Tehrani on numerous occasions to request payment of his earned commissions," he alleged. "Tehrani would invariably make an excuse for why APS could not pay at the time."
Edelman asked the court for a declaration that APS and Tehrani violated the law, both in terminating him and withholding his commissions. He's also seeking economic, compensatory, punitive and liquidated damages, plus interest and attorney fees.
He noted that he has filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and intends to add Americans with Disabilities Act claims to his lawsuit once the EEOC has concluded its investigation.
Counsel for Edelman and a representative for APS did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Edelman is represented by Troy L. Kessler of Kessler Matura PC.
Counsel information for APS and Tehrani was not immediately available.
The case is Edelman v. Aristocrat Plastic Surgery PC et al., case number 2:21-cv-03109, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
--Editing by Kelly Duncan.
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