Diving Deeper on the Dallas Mavericks Harassment Investigation

As we discussed last week on the update, the Dallas Mavericks organization recently released the report from the investigation conducted by an independent law firm into the many complaints of harassment received by the organization over the last twenty years. What is listed below are the lowlights of the HR-equivalent of an NBA blooper reel that was the Mavericks Organization. Again, these observations are based off of the report of the Maverick’s self-commissioned independent investigators.  The full investigation can be found here: https://www.scribd.com/embeds/389006837/content#from_embed.

Errors Committed by the Dallas Mavericks Management Over the Last 20 years, and Our Unbiased Assessments of Them

  • Terminated an employee one week after she filed a complaint of harassment with a manager.

If you receive a report of harassment from an employee, the appropriate response is almost never to terminate that employee following her or his complaint. Retaliation claims have a far greater chance of succeeding in court, as it is not even necessary for the plaintiff to prove that harassment or discrimination occurred – only that they were the subject of negative consequences following the filing of a complaint that could reasonably be found to contemplate harassment or discrimination.

  • Employees confided in colleagues who also did not report the behavior to management.

As an employer, you should be encouraging your employees to come forward with complaints of harassment and discrimination if they occur, even if they are not the target for the discriminatory actions, and offering them the same protection as the victims of the misconduct. This can only help in creating a more employee-friendly work environment.

  • Only one Human Resources staff person for a 214 employee organization.

HR is often the least-funded department in a company but the most relied-upon to meet your company’s needs and protecting the company against bad employee behavior. Employing only one human resources representative for a billion-dollar organization goes beyond careless and ventures into the unbelievable.

  • Only Human Resources employee was close personal friend of the highest ranking member of the business organization – leading to a sense of futility in making complaints to Human Resources.

This is not to say that an HR Director cannot be friends with the head of an organization, but when relationships lead to the HR Director ignoring his duties to his employees, it becomes dangerous for the company.

  • HR Director attempted to talk employees out of filing complaints.

The purpose of a complaint intake system is not to talk employees out of filing complaints, but is to be a haven for employees to bring complaints and determine whether any wrongdoing has occurred.

  • Although 50 employees either complained or were aware of an employee’s viewing of pornography at work, he was simply issued a warning – no investigation, no monitoring, no discipline – and the behavior continued unchecked.

The workplace is not a place for the viewing of pornography, and most employers do not allow even one incident of pornography in the workplace before the employee is terminated. To allow employee conduct such as this goes beyond the pale of irresponsibility.

  • Dismissing written complaints of sexual harassment and intimidation.

Again, the role of Human Resources is not to dismiss complaints, but to assess the complaints and investigate any possibilities of wrongdoing.

  • Human Resources ignoring the exit interviews of four employees advising of an employee’s threatening and intimidating attitude.

Why conduct exit interviews if you are not going to use the data collected to make changes to your organization or address problems?? Major improvements can be made to an organization by listening to the employees who do not want to work there anymore. Listen!

  • HR had discussion with ticket management about an offending employee, yet issued no warnings to the employee that would notify him of their desire to change his behavior.

Speaking to an employee about troublesome behavior means nothing if the employee believes that nothing bad will happen if the behavior continues.

  • Issued a written reprimand to the same employee for his threat that he would “take out” fellow employees following a mass shooting in 2009.

In this day and age, there is nothing that should be taken more serious than threats of workplace violence. IF you have a situation such as this develop, immediate steps must be taken to create a safe atmosphere for employees.

  • Knowingly allowed the same employee to give employees tours of the Mavericks facility, including his apartment, which was allegedly attached to the facility, for four years without any attempt to correct the behavior.

If any introduction to an employer facility involves a personal tour of an on-site residence, you are asking for trouble.

  • Allowed the employee to send sexually explicit e-mails throughout the workplace without reprimand or correction.

Have a workplace policy regarding the appropriate use of electronic devices and e-mail, and enforce it.

  • Failed to reprimand, warn, or discipline the SAME employee after a used condom fell out of his pants leg in the office. Rather, the department informed him that his lunch break lasted too long.

Behavior such as this cannot be ignored, and discipline must be issued. Furthermore: Gross.

  • Management provided the same employee with greater opportunity to more profitable tickets despite repeated complaints from other employees.

Treatment such as this only works to enforce the idea that management supports, rather than prohibits, the behavior of problem employees.

  • Following complaints of domestic violence by the fiancée of the team-employed beat writer, and the arrest of the employee outside of team facilities, the team owner attempted to find out whether his fiancée was the real issue, and directed the team’s general counsel to retain an attorney for the employee and “send Cuban the bill.”

While it is important to be supportive of your employees, instances of illegal off-duty behavior should be left to the employee to deal with.

  • The same employee was sent back out to his regular assignment following being charged with assault and interfering with an emergency call.

It is always a good idea to consider putting an employee out on leave when the employee is subject to charges that may impact the organization, especially charges as serious as those described in the report.

  • Following the physical assault of a co-worker by the beat writer and her complaint to her direct manager and the human resources director, the beat writer was retained, the matter was not reported to law enforcement, and the co-worker resigned with a severance payment. Allegedly, the co-worker who complained of the conduct was asked if she thought the writer should be fired. She did not feel comfortable making the decision with two high-ranking employees in the room.

Management needs to take steps to protect its employees, especially against those employees who will hurt them. There is not excuse to leave the punishment up to the victim. Misconduct must be dealt with swiftly and directly by management.

As you can see, the errors of the Mavericks organization not only ignored the complaints of employees, but actually put employee safety in jeopardy.  We hope you NEVER find yourselves in a situation such as this, but if you ever have any questions about the appropriate response to situations like this in your workplace, do not hesitate to contact the workplace professionals at the Wiley Law Office.