Today, we offer a modified version of "Fire, Suspend or Wait and See?, aptly named "Fire, Suspend or Play On?". The goal? To make the right call with an employee facing legal issues, maximizing the company's interest while being an advocate (to the extent you can) for the employee.
Former NBA All-Star and current New York Knicks executive, Isiah Thomas, was on the ropes in a widely publicized harassment trial, brought against him and the Knicks by a former female exec who alleges Thomas used the "B" and the "H" word towards her, and then said he loved her. Check out some of the details here.
Thomas was on the ropes, but now there's a verdict. A federal jury in Manhattan found yesterday that Madison Square Garden and Thomas sexually discriminated against the executive and ordered that the company and its chairman — but not the team’s coach — pay her $11.6 million in punitive damages.
So, Thomas has been found guilty in a JURY trial. I use caps because you don't see many of these things getting that far. So with the guilty verdict, what's your call on Thomas?
Before you vote, the handling of the investigation by Madison Square Garden (MSG -the company that owns the Knicks) deserves special attention. The Garden was ordered to pay $6 million for subjecting Ms. Browne Sanders to a hostile work environment and another $2.6 million for firing her in retaliation. The jury ordered that the owner of MSG, James Dolan, pay $3 million for the retaliation. In his testimony, Mr. Dolan said that he alone made the decision to fire her. Mr. Dolan had no comment on the verdict or the award.
Less than a month after she formally complained to the Garden, Dolan fired her. In court, the Garden cited numerous explanations for the dismissal, including poor job performance and the claim that she had interfered with the Garden’s internal investigation of her accusations. It's widely reported that the Garden had done little to investigate the harassment complaint, or the report that she had interfered with any investigation that did occur.
In a post riffing on an earlier installment of Fire, Suspend or Wait and See, Michael Moore examined the unique situation that arises when a star CEO or executive is the target of a harassment complaint. He advocates independent Boards bring in outside counsel to investigate such high profile claims, so in-house HR people don't worry about the threat to their career as they investigate.
Go to this link, scroll down to the video and watch the first four minutes of the Dolan depositions and you'll understand why he makes that recommendation. All I can say is WOW....