Caught AND recorded in the act

September 10, 2014 - by: David Kim 1 COMMENTS
David Kim

E-mails, audio recordings, and video surveillance. This trifecta of evidentiary support was put front and center in two disturbing incidents from the sports world that made headlines in the past week.

Earlier this week, Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson stepped down, stating his intention to sell the team, because of a 2012 e-mail that he had written and that was to (and eventually did) become public. In the e-mail, Levenson expresses his thoughts on attracting more white fans to the arena and marketing to white fans in general, including for example that there were “not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base” and that he wanted “some white cheerleaders” and “music familiar to a 40-year-old white guy.” Levenson, in stepping down, issued a statement apologizing for his e-mail and its “inflammatory nonsense.” Interestingly, Jason Whitlock, an African-American columnist for ESPN.com, and former NBA player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have both written pieces that have defended Levenson and his e-mail, stating that the Hawks owner is not a racist, but a businessman asking reasonable questions about race and how to put customers in seats.

It has come to light that the existence of Levinson’s e-mail wasshutterstock_180735251 actually uncovered as a result of an investigation due to a separate incident. In June, Atlanta Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry had a conference call with the various owners of the organization, which was recorded so notes could be made for the partners unable to participate live. In discussing player personnel issues, Ferry allegedly was reading off a report generated by team sources when he spoke about then-free agent Luol Deng (now signed with the Miami Heat) and stated “he has a little African in him. Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out in the back” and further describing Deng as a two-faced liar and cheat. As a result of Ferry’s comments, a minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks spearheaded an investigation that eventually also led to the discovery of Levenson’s e-mail. Ferry has issued an apology but has refused to step down as GM despite outside pressure to do so.

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Learning from tragedy–depression and mental health in the workplace

August 17, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 2 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

This past week, the entertainment world lost one of its best and brightest to an apparent suicide. Robin Williams, who brought laughter to so many for so long, took his own life at the age of 63. So much has been written about his talent over the past week that it’s difficult to understand or accept how such a thing could have happeneshutterstock_198363611d. But, Robin Williams’ tragic death is a reminder to all of us of the very real and very serious presence of anxiety and depression in our daily lives regardless of whether we ourselves or a close friend or family member suffers from these afflictions.

Just as much as depression can affect our home and family lives, it also has a serious impact at work. In 1995, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that as many as 1 in 20 employees was suffering from depression. So, count how many employees work for your company and do the math. If you are a company of any size, it’s likely that at least one or more of your employees may be dealing with his or her own depression or that of a family member.

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Distraction or discrimination?

July 29, 2014 - by: David Kim 4 COMMENTS
David Kim

Of all the people associated with the National Football League, it was Tony Dungy who got himself in some hot water with comments he made over the last couple weeks. It was the same Tony Dungy who is looked upon as thoughtful and mild-mannered and whose persona, during his tenure as an NFL head coach and now as a TV analyst, evokes a sense of calm and reasonableness (at least to the general public) amidst the brash and in-your-face personalities that dominate the 24-hour news cycle when it comes to the NFL.shutterstock_179715650

Dungy’s appeal and reputation are some of the reasons why he hasn’t been pressed by the media or the public on statements he has made in the past. Remember in 2007 when then-Indianapolis Colts Coach Dungy publicly supported the Indiana Family Institute in seeking to make gay marriage illegal in the state? Probably not. How about 2010 when he publicly criticized New York Jets coach Rex Ryan for his expletive-laced vocabulary on the HBO series Hard Knocks, and stated the commissioner should consider calling Ryan to discuss how Ryan is “representing” the NFL? Maybe, but you probably just thought that yeah, Ryan sure does curse a lot. I’m not saying Dungy deserved criticism by any means, just pointing out that he received very little whereas other public personalities likely would have had a lot more questions to answer, warranted or not.

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The keyboard is mightier …

July 14, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 0 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

This past Friday, LeBron James announced his return to Cleveland after fourshutterstock_294301 years of displaying his talents at South Beach. One of the biggest clues that something was in the works was when the open letter written by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert in 2010 to the then-departing LeBron suddenly went missing from the team’s website. In the letter, Gilbert had lashed out angrily at LeBron for leaving the team, calling the move to Miami a “cowardly betrayal.” Gilbert also made fun of LeBron’s nicknames and boldly [and wrongly] predicted that the Cavs would bring home an NBA championship trophy before the Heat.

So when the scorned team owner’s letter suspiciously disappeared in the days leading up to LeBron’s decision, radio talk show hosts and talking heads alike were abuzz with conjecture that a deal with Cleveland was in the works. Ultimately, this speculation turned out to be true, with LeBron announcing on Friday—via a very well composed article on SI.com—that he would be returning to Northeast Ohio with the hopes of improving more than just the basketball team’s performance.

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HR sports roundup: football, futbol, and fireworks

July 02, 2014 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

As we head into the July 4 weekend, your EntertainHR sports reporters cover America’s favorite pastime–litigation!

The women who cheer football got a boost this week when the Oakland Raiders announced they would pay their Raiderettes the California minimum wage of $9 per hour beginning this coming season.  This blog first covered the story back in January when the lawsuit was filed. football, futbol, fireworksWe would not be surprised to see similar lawsuits from other cheerleading squads, particularly in California or other states with employee-friendly labor laws. The attorneys for the Raiderettes who filed the lawsuit will continue to pursue their action against the team. They seek back pay and attorneys’ fees for the alleged violations from past seasons.

The women who play football have filed a lawsuit of their own. A class of current and former players in the Lingerie Football League–now the Legends Football League–have sued the league in Los Angeles superior court for a litany of wage and hour violations based on the league’s alleged misclassification of them as independent contractors and not employees. Employee misclassification is a hot topic in employment law and has been the reason for a blitz of wage and hour class actions in recent years. The U.S. Department of Labor has devoted an entire section of its website to the topic.

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Lactation intolerance

Kristin Starnes Gray

When Karlesha Thurman got ready for her college graduation ceremony, she probably had no idea that she would be picking up international news coverage along with her accounting degree. Thurman’s three-month-old daughter became hungry during the festivities and Thurman did what countless other mothers have done–she nursed her hungry baby. A friend snapped a photograph of the moment and Thurman later posted it to Facebook in an effort to show that breastfeeding is “natural, it’s normal, there’s nothing wrong with it.” Thereafter, the photograph went viral and added further fuel to the widespread debate on public breastfeeding with supporters pointing out that it’s natural and healthy for babies and critics arguing that it should be kept behind closed doors. shutterstock_161446934

The public breastfeeding debate has even inspired a new form of civil disobedience–the nurse-in. If you’re not familiar with the term, participants band together to nurse in public in a particular location at a particular time to show their solidarity. Some nurse-ins also include participants handing out pamphlets and other educational information about breastfeeding. Despite public health organizations and others trumpeting the health benefits (for both mothers and children) of breastfeeding, public breastfeeding remains a source of controversy and disagreement.

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Is age just a number? Lessons from Jay Leno’s departure

February 09, 2014 - by: Matt Gilley 1 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

I’m beginning to feel my age. Last night, a good friend celebrated a milestone birthday (I won’t say which milestone, but you can probably guess). His wife asked everyone to come in 1970s garb or as a character from the decade, so I went as J.R. Ewing. Our babysitter (born in 1995) had no idea who J.R. was. Deflated, I sighed and quoted Journey’s classic rock ballad, “The Wheel in the Sky Keeps on Turning.”    shutterstock_96916121

She didn’t get that one, either.

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Rah rah ree! Pay our salary!

January 24, 2014 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

If your Google search for “California cheerleaders illegal” led you here, our apologies for your initial disappointment. But, please, stay a while, because the recently filed class action lawsuit by the Raiderette cheerleaders against the NFL’s Oakland Raiders is instructive as to the types of issues that can lead to wage-and-hour litigation.  Do we have your rapt attention now?  Good, let’s delve.

According to the complaint filed this week in Alameda County, California, the Raiders are in violation of numerous California Labor Code provisions dealing with employer wage-and-hour requirements. The problems appear to originate in the Raiderette Agreement that the football club requires its cheerleaders to sign. According to the agreement, which states that each Raiderette is an at-will employee of the Raiders, a cheerleader earns $125 for every home game. That money allegedly isn’t paid, however, until January when the Raiders’ season is over. This is potentially problematic  for a number of reasons (not least of which is  that the Raiders’ season is generally de facto over in November). read more…

“I meant, are you in here for drugs?”

December 16, 2013 - by: David Kim 0 COMMENTS
David Kim

Drugs are no laughing matter, except of course when it comes to the referenced exchange between Charlie Sheen’s character and Jeannie Bueller in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Yet, when it comes to our celebrity news cycle, drug use is as prevalent as steroid use has become in baseball.

The latest scandal involves Nigella Lawson, most well known as a food writer and television personality for a variety of cooking shows, including the currently running The Taste on ABC. Now, I’m neither a foodie nor a reality TV junkie. In fact, the only reality TV shows I watch are Top Chef, where half the time I have no idea what ingredients they are referring to, and Shark Tank, because I find it entertaining when Mr. Wonderful blasts an entrepreneur’s terrible business idea. And while I had never heard of The Taste, and barely knew of Nigella Lawson, the recent headlines involving her life have come front and center and have taken on a soap opera-ish feel.

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Save the white males!

December 05, 2013 - by: Brian Kurtz 6 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

For decades the most heated gender-related dispute in the world of Archie Comics wasshutterstock_91545035 whether Archie was more into Betty or Veronica. But a recent lawsuit by five white male executives of Archie Comics against the company’s female co-CEO is enough to whiten Reggie Mantle’s hair.

The five men (and one woman) allege that Nancy Silberkleit engaged in a lengthy pattern of harassing, bullying, and demeaning conduct, including referring to each male employee simply as “penis.” For example, the complaint alleged that Silberkleit once interrupted a meeting, pointed at each of the four men present, and said “penis, penis, penis, penis.”  The complaint, filed in the Supreme Court of Westchester County, New York, alleges gender discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law and asserts various state law causes of action.

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