Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dismissal Of Case Against Connecticut Coach Affirmed

Just in time for tonight's championship game, the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department affirmed the dismissal of a case brought against Connecticut coach  Gino Auriemma

Plaintiff is the Director of Security for her employer, the National Basketball Association (NBA). She commenced this action against defendants alleging, inter alia, discrimination and retaliation in violation of the State and City Human Rights Law. Defendants Geno Auriemma and James Tooley are employed, respectively, as the executive director and head coach of USA Basketball, Inc. (USAB), the national governing body for the sport of basketball. Although it is an Illinois corporation, USAB has its main headquarters in Colorado Springs. Tooley is a Colorado resident and Auriemma is a Connecticut resident. The NBA is a New York City based company and a member of the USAB. Although plaintiff resides within the state, she is not a New York City resident.

Plaintiff had expected to provide security to the Women's National Basketball team at the 2012 London Olympics and had traveled with it to the Olympics on at least two prior occasions in 2004 and 2008. In 2011, however, while she was abroad with the team, plaintiff learned that Auriemma had instructed Tooley that he did not want her at the 2012 Olympics. Plaintiff claims that Auriemma's actions were motivated by her rejection of Auriemma's inappropriate sexual advances towards her during a 2009 overseas assignment.

Plaintiff alleges that Tooley cooperated with Auriemma's request, and contacted her supervisor, James Cawley, who agreed to remove her from the 2012 London Olympics assignment. After plaintiff complained about the reassignment, the NBA investigated and found her complaint unsubstantiated. Plaintiff then commenced this action in June 2012. Subsequently, in July 2012, she learned that the NBA had decided that she would be attending the London Olympics after all.

Although she attended the Olympics, plaintiff claims that she had "significantly diminished material responsibilities" while in London. Her complaints included that she was not provided with certain security credentials that would have allowed her access to the basketball arena, she was assigned to transport guests to and from the arena, and she was told she could not sit in the bleachers at the gym while the team was practicing. Plaintiff claims these limitations were all part of Auriemma's retaliation campaign against her, in which Cawley and Tooley were complicit.

USAB, Tooley and Auriemma moved to dismiss the complaint against them. Their motions were granted on the basis that the discriminatory acts alleged took place outside of New York by nonresidents and the conduct alleged had no impact in New York. The court rejected plaintiff's argument that her place of employment was the location of the injury for purposes of evaluating where its impact was felt. Her employer and Cawley have answered the complaint. They have not moved and the order appealed from does not affect plaintiff's claims against them. We agree that the motions by non-residents USAB, Auriemma and Tooley, dismissing the Human Rights Law and collateral tort claims against then, were properly granted.

(Mike Frisch)

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