Adnan Virk Hints At A Lawsuit Against ESPN If He Is Not Paid A Severance
On February 1, ESPN lead studio host Adnan Virk had his employment terminated. The reports indicated that Virk had been fired after being caught disseminating some of ESPN’s confidential information to the media in multiple instances.
After eleven days of silence, Virk has rejected the accusations, and categorically denies that he ever leaked any confidential or proprietary information belonging to ESPN. He has only released a prepared statement, but indicated that he retained legal counsel in an effort to reach a settlement with his former employer. Such a settlement will undoubtedly include a severance package in exchange for Virk releasing ESPN from all known and unknown claims, including potential breaches of his employment agreement based on the early termination of his tenure. Virk had recently signed a four-year contract with ESPN.
Virk’s main contention in litigation would likely revolve around a claim that ESPN materially breached his employment contract by trying to take the position that his termination was for cause. Contracts of employment typically provide a definition of what constitutes termination for cause, which can include acts that result in a material breach of representations or covenants found in the agreement, acts that constitute a criminal act or moral turpitude and acts that would detrimentally derogate the reputation or integrity of the employer. Virk certainly would take the position that ESPN did not have the justification to claim a for cause termination and maybe did not follow the appropriate notice or cure procedures found within his agreement.
Without access to Virk’s employment contract, it requires speculating as to the specific grounds that ESPN has cited for terminating Virk’s contract for cause. That said, it is fair to assume that, if ESPN actually controls proof that Virk was disseminating ESPN’s confidential information to third parties, it would satisfy the for cause definition found in his employment agreement. Further, if Virk were to file a lawsuit, that employment contract would likely need to be attached to the complaint, which would provide additional insight not only into the for cause definition, but the general construct of the agreement as a whole, including Virk’s compensation plan.
In the meantime, the parties are apparently attempting to resolve their differences.
“We . . . are currently attempting to amicably resolve my leaving ESPN,” said Virk. “I think that, while we are attempting to settle our differences, it is not productive for me to advocate my positions or to assert any affirmative claims in the press.”
The fact that Virk has retained counsel and is engaging in pre-litigation settlement discussions is dispositive of Virk’s having already considered taking legal action against ESPN. While that would certainly open Virk up to a discovery process that could expose Virk’s underhanded dealings (if true), it would also potentially provide a window into ESPN’s employment practices concerning Virk and others who have not necessarily left ESPN on solid terms.
In March 2018, ESPN was sued by Adrienne Lawrence, who served in the capacity of legal analyst. In her Complaint, Lawrence alleged that she was not offered a full-time position, after the completion of a two-year fellowship, in retaliation for whistleblowing concerning a claimed hostile workplace environment. Lawrence claimed that she received unwelcome sexual advances from male colleagues, including prominent ESPN anchor John Buccigross. The case remains pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut (New Haven), with ESPN filing its answer to an amended complaint, along with affirmative defenses, on January 11.
If Virk were to file a lawsuit against ESPN, he would likely be restricted, contractually, to adjudicating the matter in Connecticut, which serves as home to his former employer. Holding a home court advantage in litigation, particularly when a party is a part of a corporate giant (in this case, The Walt Disney Company), can certainly play a role in the way that justice is served. However, Virk is adamantly maintaining that he is innocent and that he has nothing to hide.
“Suffice it to say, that I believe that I did nothing wrong that would justify my termination, and I categorically deny that I leaked any confidential or proprietary information,” said Virk. He added that he believes much of what has been reported about ESPN terminating his employment agreement is false and defamatory. Many have reported that one of the leaks allegedly involving Virk led to the publishing of an article titled, “Contrary to popular conjecture, Baseball Tonight will not be coming back as a daily program.” The website, Awful Announcing, reported that it was able to learn the information utilized for its article, but did not reveal the source of that information.