• New York Knicks basketball team executive awarded over $11 million in punitive damages for sexual harassment suit
• Four – week trial
• The case exposed the organization and its managers unfavorable publicity
• Anucha Browne Sanders, the Knicks’ senior vice president of marketing and business operations accused the teams owner, the Garden, and its president, Isiah Thomas with sex discrimination and retaliation.
• Ms. Browne Sanders accused Mr. Thomas of verbally abusing and sexually harassing her over a 2-year period.
• The Garden fired her about a month after she complained to top management about the harassment.
• The Garden cited numerous explanations for the dismissal, saying she had failed to fulfill professional responsibilities.
• Mr. Thomas vigorously insisted he was innocent and thought the suit was for financial gain.
• Little corroboration from witnesses
• Little witnesses from the Garden regarding her performance not up to par
• Jury decided in favor of the plaintiff – Browne
• The Gardens said they look forward to appeals court
1. Do you think Ms.
Browne Sanders had the basis for a sexual harassment suit? Why or why not?
No because there was limited facts presented. First, she stated that the sexual harassment went on for over two years. She should have documented the harassment and not wait so long to report it. I believe she was mad that the Garden failed to fulfill professional responsibilities to investigate. Based on her testimony and lack of witnesses, it seems that this was a retaliation of her getting fired.
2. From what you know of this case, do you think the jury arrived at the correct decision? If not, why not? If so why?
I don’t think the jury made the right decision. There was not any proof of sexual harassment. It was her word against his. If I was awarding 11 million dollars I would need proof that this happened, either by voice recording, more than a couple witnesses. This is a large organization and over the two years there should have been more co-worker witnesses.
3. Based on the few facts that you have, what steps if any could Garden management have taken to protect themselves from liability in this matter?
The Garden should have proper documentation regarding her job performance. Documentation could consist of written warnings, job evaluations, or simple documented discussions. Have a witness in the room to help documentation. If they really had a case, I believe that they could have had more reliable witnesses. I’m sure Ms. Browne worked with many people and vendors.
4. Aside from the appeal, what would you do now iI you were the Garden’s top management? Maybe put a positive press release about employees that are treated fairly at the organization. I would try and boost employee morale by providing them with a motivational speaker and knowledge in Equal Employment. I would review the human resource policy manual for up to date policies and procedures. Make sure there are proper employee complaint forms in place and steps to take on how to react and respond. Train the managers on Sexual Harassment and Ethics.
5. The allegations against the Madison Square Garden in this case raise ethical questions with regard to the employer’s actions. Explain whether you agree or disagree with this statement, and why.
I agree with this statement. How you fire an employee sends a powerful message to the rest of your staff. Did the employer try to improve the employee’s performance? Where is the documentation of her lacking performance? Did her supervisor set goals, establish measures, conduct review sessions and chart any progress? Clearly there was a lack of communication or it was retaliation.
• If you have taken all the possible steps to help an employee improve their work performance, it may be time to fire them.
• Firing an employee could send a positive or negative message to the rest of your staff.
• Firing an employee is not illegal, but after they file a harassment complaint it looks fishy.
• Why didn’t the court look into her personnel file where there should be information on attendance records, performance evaluations, write ups if any, etc.
• There was no documentation why they fired her.
• Harassment charges should be filed as soon as possible after the incident
• There was no specific examples of harassment