ACLU of New Mexico Joins Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Local Hockey Team

May 11, 2004 12:00 am

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ALBUQUERQUE–The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico today announced its representation of five former employees of the New Mexico Scorpions hockey team in their pending lawsuit over hostile and discriminatory working conditions during the 2001-2002 season.

“While the ACLU rarely enters cases against private employers, the stories of sexual and racial discrimination involved here are so shocking and well-documented that we felt a duty to lend our assistance,” said Maureen Sanders, ACLU of New Mexico Co-Legal Director. “Hopefully, the attention that ACLU involvement brings to this case will send a signal that sexual and racial harassment in professional sports will not be tolerated.”

According to legal papers, female employees were not only paid significantly lower wages and given fewer privileges than male employees for performing the same jobs, but also regularly made to endure inappropriate comments and verbal abuse from their supervisors. Scorpions’ General Manager Patrick Dunn and Community Liaison Tyler Boucher – both defendants in the lawsuit–regularly made lewd jokes around the women female and openly referred to them as “fucking bitches.”

Further, the four female plaintiffs were pressured to date team patrons as well as to cheat in ticket and pro shop sales to give some of the defendants an edge in sales. These problems were reported to defendant William Douglas Frank, owner of W.D. Sports NM, Inc, who failed to take action to remedy the situation.

“The worst thing for me was not being able to do anything about it,” said team controller Moira Daly. “I had employees in my office crying and I knew from prior complaints to the team’s owner and General Manager that nothing would be done.”

Legal papers also accuse Dunn and Boucher of making racially prejudiced remarks toward plaintiff Robert Haddock, a former assistant coach and player, as well as intentionally undermining his ability to make sales. Boucher repeatedly swept Haddock’s business cards from the front desk of the office and denied him access to a computer and a phone. Haddock repeatedly complained about the inequities to no avail.

“Abusive work situations can be devastating, especially for people who love their jobs,” said Katy Hammel, an ACLU Cooperating Attorney. “These employees were true hockey fans. They were proud to be a part of the Scorpions. One of them even had her lower leg tattooed with the figure of a scorpion holding a hockey stick. These employees did not deserve to lose their jobs because they could not tolerate being called ‘bitches’ and ‘donkeys’ and ‘nigger.'”

The lawsuit alleges multiple violations of the New Mexico Human Rights Act and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as well as defamation and retaliatory discharge. The plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages, as well as equitable relief to prevent future violations.

In addition to Haddock and Daly, the five plaintiffs include the team’s award-winning community relations and sales representative Rosann Williams, box office manager Kaye Hunter, and pro shop employee Mia Marquart. They were represented throughout the preliminary stages of the lawsuit by attorney Katy Hammel, who now becomes the ACLU Cooperating Attorney for the case. The ACLU’s Sanders today entered her appearance in the case on behalf of the ACLU.

In addition to Frank, Dunn, and Boucher, new General Manager Daniel Burgers, Vice President of Finance and Administration Bruce Levine, W.D. Sports N.M. Inc. and New Mexico Scorpions are named Defendants.

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