An executive who co-founded a staffing firm with his daughter and husband said his son-in-law forced him out of the business in retaliation after she sued for a divorce.
Daniel Rubinstein accused Steven Pearlman of misappropriating his “labor, skills, expenses and…the fruits of his labour,” in a complaint filed August 18 with the Westchester Superior Court.
In 2017, Perelman, his wife Deborah Wrobinstein, and Matt Hall founded the Sifter Group. The boutique technology recruitment company is based in Perelman’s Hartsdale home.
The company was set up as wholly owned by Perelman but included a stock plan for a hoped-for eventual purchase. Stephen Perlman, CEO, will receive 51% of the proceeds. Rubinstein, CFO, 15%; and Deborah Pearlman, director of human resources, 9%. Hall and future management will receive the remainder.
Rubinstein, of Woodstock, Ulster County, says he ran his own consulting firm and had a salary of $550,000 from his previous employer.
He was paid a $50,000 starting salary, according to the complaint, with the expectation of significant financial gain if the business was successful and sold.
Within five years, the complaint says, Syfter’s revenue had grown to $15 million annually and profits of $2.5 million. In 2021, Rubinstein earned a salary of $225,000 and a bonus of $100,000.
He claims credit for securing $2.5 million in funding, developing the financial system, co-creating group decision-making programs, and participating “in nearly every major decision Syfter makes.”
But as his daughter’s marriage deteriorated and she filed for divorce in October 2022, so did Rubinstein’s situation, according to the complaint.
Rubinstein alleges that when the divorce papers were filed, Perelman told his wife he was going to terminate her father.
Rubinstein accuses Perelman of creating a hostile workplace, trying to force his resignation and bypassing the dismissal plan.
Perelman had said Rubinstein would receive a $200,000 bonus for 2022, as stated in the complaint, then said a month later there would be no bonus.
A part-time finance director was hired, according to the complaint, and in the “final slap in the face” Perlman directed Rubinstein to train her as his replacement.
Rubinstein’s employment agreement required Syfter to provide 60 days’ notice of termination and provide full salary and benefits during the interim period. Unless he was fired for a reason — such as fraud, a criminal conviction, or insubordination — he was entitled to approximately 15% of Sifter’s net assets.
On January 17, Perelman fired Rubinstein for immediate effect, the complaint states. No advance notice was given, no specific reason was given, and his salary and benefits were cancelled.
After referring to the requirements of the employment agreement, Rubinstein says, he received fortnightly payments of $1,731, about 20% of his previous salary.
Rubinstein claims that when he applied for unemployment benefits last May, the state Labor Department said Sifter indicated he was fired for insubordination and breach of his employment agreement, making him ineligible for benefits. The state eventually agreed to the benefits.
Rubinstein says he was forced to sell part of his retirement assets and property in Connecticut, and begin psychotherapy for depression, as a result of Perelman’s “illegal behaviour”.
It seeks unspecified damages for alleged breaches of contract, harmful interference, misappropriation of ideas and skills, and unfair enrichment.
Sifter and Perelman’s attorney, Stephen E. Turman, of Uniondale, Nassau County, did not respond to an email requesting a response to the allegations.
Rubinstein is represented by White Plains attorney Jonathan Oring.
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