A former employee of the Golden State Warriors is suing star shooting guard Monta Ellis and the team for sexual harassment, the Associated Press reported on December 21, 2011. In her lawsuit, Erika Ross Smith alleges Ellis sent her several dozen explicit messages while she worked for the team’s community relations department, including a photo of his genitals that was allegedly sent to Smith’s work-issued cellphone a day after he complained to the team about her job performance.
In a prepared statement, the Warriors’ president and chief operating officer, Rick Welts, said the organization takes all harassment allegations seriously. “When we were made aware of a consensual relationship between Mr. Ellis and the Plaintiff, we did what an organization should do. We told both to stop — promptly, directly and fairly,” Welts said, according to the AP. “The Warriors have never taken any action against the Plaintiff for any inappropriate reason, and we deny the allegations she is making.”
Smith’s attorney rejected that claim, saying “it was absolutely, unequivocally 100 percent not consensual.” According to the AP, Smith’s job description was changed by the Warriors before she was eventually fired after Ellis’ wife, Juanika, learned of the texts and complained to team executives in January. The lawsuit also alleges retaliation, wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress and seeks unspecified damages.
If indeed this was not the consensual relationship that Welts has claimed it was, then these types of harassment cases are classified as a “hostile working environment.” As opposed to quid pro quo sexual harassment cases where a promotion or a hire is conditioned on intimate relations with the employer, a hostile working environment involves a pattern of continued exposure to unwanted sexual advances.
Nearly a year ago, there was speculation in the media as to whether former New York Jets employee Jenn Sterger would file a sexual harassment lawsuit against former quarterback Brett Favre for text messages, voicemails and explicit photos he sent her in 2008. So how often do you think this type of behavior occurs behind the scenes of most professional sports teams?
Law Offices of Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob – Los Angeles employment attorneys