On Wednesday morning, former Golden State Warriors director of community relations Erika Smith filed a lawsuit against the Golden in the Alameda County Courthouse. The lawsuit claimed Monta Ellis engaged in repeated sexual harassment of Smith and the Warriors condoned the activity and attempted to cover it up.
The lawsuit named Ellis, Golden State Warriors LLC, owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, GM Larry Riley, HR executive director Erika Brown and Does 1 through 40. The Does allow Smith to add additional individuals that were involved. Smith believes there were numerous individuals involved in the cover-up and not all their names are known at this point. Does are listed so that when an additional investigation is conducted, the suit can be amended to include new names.
You can read through the lawsuit at the Alameda County Courthouse website. Click on Case Summary and enter in the case number (RG11609244) and you can read through all the dirty details as they come out.
The basic details of her own alleged sexual harassment are pretty straightforward. Smith claims Monta Ellis sent her numerous texts that created a hostile work environment. She claims he sent her texts with things like "I want to be with you" and "Hey Sexy." The harassment is reported to have started around November 17, 2010 and continued for at least two months.
Smith claims that when initially tried to reject his advances, Ellis reportedly went to the Warriors and complained about her work. Her work as community relations director involved dealing with the players in a variety of events that they do with the Bay Area community. The Warriors reportedly issued her a disciplinary warning letter, although Smith claims Ellis made this up.
The suit alleges that Monta Ellis' wife, Juanika Ellis, called Smith and informed her she knew of the texts that were going on. Juanika reportedly went to the Warriors and told them to either fire Smith or have her no longer work events involving Monta. The suit claims that Smith was subsequently removed from a variety of events involving Ellis and other players. She claims this was retaliation and part of the cover up.
The Warriors reportedly asked her to resign in February of 2011, offering her a cash settlement. She refused, believing this was an attempt at a bribe or hush money. On July 25, 2011 she received a text from a newspaper reporter asking if Ellis was stalking her. She did not confirm that anything occurred and she informed the Warriors of the text. On August 5, she was terminated by the Warriors who claimed the team no longer needed a Director of Community Relations.
The suit also alleges sexual harassment in the work place beyond just Smith's own. For example, it points to two specific instances that allegedly created a hostile work environment and was encouraged by Warriors executives:
1. Requiring Warrior Girls perform for personal enjoyment of Lacob and his golfing friends
2. Failure to prevent, investigate, and/or remedy sexual harassment by a VP that occurred in June/July 2011
If this case goes to trial, numerous unsavory details could emerge, causing a PR nightmare for the Warriors.
The lawsuit includes 14 causes of action:
1. Violation of Government Code (Harassment and HWE)
2. Violation of Government Code (Failure to Prevent Harassment)
3. Violation of Government Code (Retaliation)
4. Violation of Government Code (Wrongful Termination)
5. Wrongful termination in Violation of Public Policy
6. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
7. Violation of Labor Code (Meal Periods)
8. Violation of Labor Code (Rest Periods)
9. Violation of Labor Code (Failure to Pay Wages)
10. Violation of Labor Code (Failure to Pay Wages Due and Owing)
11. Violation of Labor Code (Itemized Wage Statements)
12. Unfair Business Practices - B & P Code Sections 17200 et seq.
We'll have a more specific breakdown of each cause of action. Having spent some time working in professional sports, c/a 7 through 11 are actually a bit more interesting than the sexual harassment portion of the suit. The dirty details are in the harassment, but 7 through 11 cover something that exists throughout sports.
Smith's suit is going after wages she believes she should have been paid for overtime hours she worked during her time with the Warriors. She worked numerous events including games and charity events. She was classified as an exempt employee and was not paid overtime even though she had numerous non-exempt duties.
Front office employees with professional sports organizations put in crazy hours during the season. Although there are plenty of hourly employees within an organization, many salaried employees work well in excess of 40 hours per week during a given season. I do not believe there has been any sort of lawsuit on this matter, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.