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Male Violinist Files Sex Discrimination Suit

A violinist who claims the New York Philharmonic (search) fired him because he is a man says some of the women who were promoted ahead of him gave flowers and other gifts to their bosses.

Anton Polezhayev (search), 29, says in a lawsuit that he was asked to leave after the 2003-2004 season, in the last month of his 17-month probation, despite being told by orchestra officials that he was doing "a fine job" and that his playing was "perfect."

Polezhayev's lawyer, Lenard Leeds (search), said Friday that the Philharmonic's personnel manager, Carl R. Schiebler, even wrote a letter to a landlord on the violinist's behalf, saying he expected Polezhayez would be "a long-term member of the orchestra."

Meanwhile, Polezhayev says in court papers filed Thursday, seven female violinists won permanent jobs or were promoted over him, although some had less experience than he had, or had not auditioned for the positions.

Polezhayev's court papers and Leeds said that some of the women's progress was accomplished by giving gifts, including flowers and champagne, to musical director Lorin Maazel and Glenn Dicterow, the concertmaster or principal violinist.

Of the Philharmonic's 33 violinists, 20 are women, the orchestra's Web site says.

"I think that if I were exactly the same person in a female body they would keep me for life and never fire me," Polezhayev said Friday by telephone.

Eric Latzky, the Philharmonic's spokesman, said he had no comment on the lawsuit.

Polezhayev, a U.S. citizen since 1996, is a native of Russia where he began his musical education in Moscow. En route to the Philharmonic, he won or placed well in several international violin competitions.

During his Philharmonic probationary period, Polezhayev was supposed to have 13 meetings with orchestra leaders so they could give him feedback and progress reports, court papers say. No such meetings were held, he says.

After Polezhayev complained to Schiebler and Dicterow about what he considered gender discrimination, they brought his complaints to Maazel's attention.

Maazel told Polezhayev in a meeting that he was being fired for "unprofessional behavior" and because he "was not good for the orchestra," despite being a good violinist, court papers say.

The musician said no one had expressed concern before about his behavior. On Feb. 10, 2004, court papers say, he received a letter from Schiebler telling him he was being fired as a Sept. 19, 2004.

Polezhayev says in court papers he was actually fired "in part, due to his gender and/or because of his good faith opposition to discriminatory practices."

"There was long-term damage to my career," Polezhayev said in the phone interview. "I will have a lot of trouble getting a job with another good orchestra. Getting fired is a black mark on your career. All musicians know that."

Polezhayev's lawsuit names the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, Maazel, Dicterow and Schiebler as defendants. He is demanding a permanent job, back pay, and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Leeds said that after his client was fired, he was forced to give up his Manhattan apartment and move back into his parents' Long Island home. The lawyer said Polezhayev has not worked since being fired by the orchestra.

The Philharmonic is currently in Vail, Colo., for a nine-day concert series.