Employment law has been a major topic of discussion for employers in California recently. Much of that centers around the #MeToo movement and people who have been sexually harassed coming out to discuss what they endured. There are other areas that employers should be concerned about including allegations of discrimination, wage and hour claims, sick leave, family leave, disability discrimination and more. This is frequently viewed from the perspective of the complaining employee. However, employers have an obligation to protect themselves. Being proactive is key and part of that is understanding how previous cases have proceeded and implementing policies to avoid mistakes others have made.
Long investigation results in baseball coach’s firing for harassment allegations
Sports is a business like any other – a multi-billion-dollar business – and franchises are obligated to adhere to the law for treating and handling employees. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were confronted with a problem this past winter when their pitching coach, Mickey Callaway, was accused of a variety of sexually harassing behaviors when he worked for other clubs. He was hired by the Angels for the 2020 season and recently fired once it was determined that he had committed the violations.
The allegations surfaced early in 2021 and he was suspended from his job with the Angels as Major League Baseball investigated accusations that he pursued women who are employed in sports media. The investigation took several months and culminated with his dismissal. He cannot work in MLB again until 2022. The harassing behaviors included repeated messages via email and text, phone calls and advances when he was in the presence of the accusers. He made comments about their appearance and sent them images they deemed inappropriate. While this might have seemed like a clear case that should warrant a dismissal, employers should remember to protect themselves in these complicated circumstances.
Having a comprehensive employment policy and following it is key
MLB and the Angels were repeatedly questioned by the media and fans as to what was taking so long with its investigation into Mr. Callaway’s alleged behaviors. The natural response in many cases is to simply dismiss the employee, but employment law can be complex. Employers could find themselves vulnerable to legal claims by a dismissed employee if they terminate him or her before the evidence is fully presented and the case is investigated thoroughly. Implementing procedures such as the terms of a suspension and when there might be termination is essential for a business regardless of its size and value. To be prepared, having legal guidance for these and other issues is vital and should be understood from the start.