Golden State Sued For Discriminating And Retaliating Against Top Ticket Sales Employee
The Golden State Warriors organization, off to an 11-3 start in the 2018-19 NBA season, has been sued based on alleged unlawful employment discrimination. Nicholas M. Smith filed a federal complaint against the team based on disability and retaliation for engaging a protected activity, as well as failure to provide final wages, commissions and wage statements.
Smith was an employee of the Warriors from June 2012 through March 2018. He was originally hired to be an Account Executive in Group Sales that paid him an hourly rate equivalent to $15.144 per hour, plus commissions. When Smith was terminated, his calculated hourly wage was $18.5096 in addition to his commissions and bonuses.
The Warriors recognized Smith as one of the franchise’s best ticket sellers. According to Smith’s Complaint, the Senior Vice President of Business Development Brandon Scheider once emailed Smith to indicate that the NBA determined that Smith was the most successful in league group sales revenue for the 2015-16 NBA season.
One issue that Smith complains about in his lawsuit is that the Warriors illegally deducted an Arena Debt Fund Fee from his commissions. Smith says that the Warriors instructed him to deduct approximately a 5% Arena Debt Fund Fee from his sales and that his wage statements failed to list the Arena Debt Fund Fee as a deduction.
Additionally, Smith says that he was not paid all wages due to him in a timely manner when his employment was terminated in March 2018. Further, Smith alleges that the Warriors organization failed to issue itemized wage statements in compliance with the Labor Code. This appears to be the biggest stretch of a claim in the lawsuit, as Smith says it was confusing that the employer’s name was listed as “GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS” as opposed to its full legal name of “GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, LLC.”
Separate from the aforesaid wage claims, Smith is suing the Warriors for alleged discrimination and retaliation.
Smith says that he went on disability leave in November 2017 and returned to work in February 2018. Upon his return, Smith complained about the Warriors’ failure to pay him all overtime wages. Smith planned to include that issue along with others, such as Warriors Group Ticket Sales Director Chris Murphy allegedly harassing employees based on race and sex, in a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
The letter documented Smith’s physical and mental disabilities, including two hernia surgeries and pinched nerves as well as being hospitalized with a panic attack while continuing to suffer with severe anxiety and depression. He added a claim that Murphy physically threatened him by grabbing his arm, pulling him into a stairway and screaming at him during an NBA game.
Smith shared the contents of the drafted letter with Warriors Vice President of Ticket Sales Jonathan Beaven before sending it to the NBA Commissioner’s Office. Two days later, Beaven allegedly told Smith that the Warriors’ lawyer would draft an exit contract for Smith.
Warriors General Counsel David Kelly told Smith that he was being terminated from his position for poor performance. Smith believes that it is impossible that he could be characterized as being an underperformer after being the best representative in his department since 2012, only taking off time for his discomfort and pain.
In addition to the wage claims, Smith is suing based on claims that he has been discriminated against on the basis of his disability, perceived disability or future perceived disability. He also claims that he was retaliated against when the Warriors learned that Smith planned to complain to the NBA Commissioner’s Office.
Smith seeks compensatory and punitive damages and attorney’s fees.