Anucha and retaliation in violation of Title VII of

Anucha Browne Sanders, is a former marketing
executive for the New York Knicks basketball, Sanders sued the Knick’s Coach
Isiah Thomas, MSG and CEO James Dolan for sexual harassment, retaliatory
termination from her job, and related claims. Browne Sanders claimed that Isiah
Thomas’ cultivated public persona, capable of abhorrent hostile and abusive behavior.

He also displayed harassing acts and unwelcome conduct with numerous sexual
advances. Sanders alleged that at times Thomas disclosed that his basketball
strategy’ such as getting opposing teams drunk at strip clubs. On October 2,
2007, a federal jury rendered a verdict in favor of Sanders ending in a judge ruling
in a mistrial on whether Thomas should pay her damages. The jury continued to
deliberate what punitive and compensatory damages the defendants may have to
pay her. This case
study report will display and identify the facts, issues, holdings, and
reasoning of Browne Sanders claim.

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 Facts

In
2005, the employment discrimination action, plaintiff Anucha Browne Sanders charges defendants Madison Square Garden,
L.P. Isiah Lord Thomas III, and James L. Dolan subjected her to discrimination
on the basis of sexual harassment, sex, and retaliation in violation of Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Plaintiff moves for summary judgment on
her retaliation claim, arguing that defendants have failed to show a genuine issue
of material fact as to the claim. Defendant Thomas moves for summary judgment
on that same claim insofar as it is asserted against him. Defendants MSG and
Dolan move for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claims for pecuniary damage,
arguing that her claims should be limited based on the discovery of
after-acquired evidence. Finally, all defendants move for immediate judgment on
plaintiff’s claim for reputation damages. The motions will be denied.

The
parties sought out summary judgment on certain of plaintiff’s claims that is,
because they ask the Court to find that certain of plaintiff’s claims are so
incontestable that judgment should be awarded to them without them having to
present their case to a jury for purposes of this motion the evidence on all
disputed points must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party that
opposes summary judgment (Champion,
2017). On summary judgment, it is not the
function of the Court to make factual findings or resolve disputed issues of
fact. Rather, the Court’s responsibility is to decide whether there are triable
issues of fact that require resolution by a jury at trial. Consequently,
nothing in this recitation should be taken as a factual finding, or as
indicating any opinion on the part of the Court with respect to the merits of
plaintiff’s claims. In sketching the factual background for this motion, the
Court merely indicates what the evidence would permit a jury to find, identifying
significant disputes in the evidence. Browne Sanders began
her employment with MSG in November 2000 as a Vice-President of Marketing for
the New York Knickerbockers, a National Basketball Association franchise owned
by MSG. As Vice-President of Marketing, Browne Sanders’s primary responsibility
was to market the Knicks’ team brand. Browne Sanders was
also responsible for various facets of the Knicks’ media and communications
programs, game presentation, and event management.  Browne Sanders was
hired by Stephen Mills, who was then MSG’s Executive Vice-President for
Franchise Operations. Mills was primarily responsible for evaluating Browne Sanders and recommending her for promotions and
salary adjustments. As a Knicks executive, Browne Sanders had
access to confidential financial and business proprietary material of MSG. When
she was hired, Browne Sanders signed
a copy of MSG’s Confidentiality, Code of Business Conduct and Proprietary
Property Agreement, which provided that during Sanders employment, may not
engage in activities or have personal or financial interests that may impair,
or appear to impair, Sanders independence or judgment or otherwise conflict
with her responsibilities to MSG. Browne Sanders also
signed MSG’s Employee Code of Conduct, which stated that public trust and
confidence are the greatest assets held by MSG.      

In March 2002, Browne Sanders was promoted to Senior Vice-President,
Marketing Business Operations. Her responsibilities expanded to include, among
other things, oversight of the marketing and business operations budget. Browne
Sanders remained in that position until her
termination in January 2006. Her total compensation for just over five years of
employment with the Knicks exceeded $1,100,000. In her new role, plaintiff
continued to report to Mills, who had by then been promoted to President, MSG
Sports Team Operations (Champion,
2017).

Thomas was hired as President of Basketball Operations for the Knicks in
December 2003. In that position, Thomas oversaw the coaches, players, and other
Knicks personnel at the MSG Training Center located in Tarrytown, New York. In
addition, Thomas had an office at MSG’s headquarters in Manhattan where Browne Sanders worked.  Although Thomas did not supervise Browne Sanders, Browne Sanders was
responsible for keeping Thomas informed about business developments related to
the team that Browne Sanders had a dotted
line relationship with him. Until 2004, Browne Sanders
received positive performance reviews and numerous bonuses. Browne Sanders also had a good working relationship
with Kevin Layden, the Knicks’ President and General Manager until his
termination in December 2003. However. beginning in 2004, Browne Sanders began experiencing difficulties at work.

In March 2004, Browne Sanders met
with Mills and Thomas to discuss a conflict between Thomas and Browne Sanders over their respective job
responsibilities. Browne Sanders also
began encountering conflict with other colleagues, including Frank Murphy,
then-Senior Vice-President of Basketball Operations.

       Issues

Such a jury also could conclude that the
relationship between Browne Sanders and
Thomas became increasingly strained during 2005. Browne Sanders accuses Thomas of engaging in unwanted
sexual advances; Thomas denies some of the alleged incidents and challenges
Browne Sanders’s interpretation of others. For purposes of this motion, the
details of the disputed incidents need not be rehearsed. The flavor of the
allegations is sufficiently conveyed by two alleged episodes. In May 2005,
Browne Sanders told Peter Olsen, an MSG consultant and
an advisor to Thomas, that Thomas had said that he loved her and requested that
she “go off site” with him. Thomas disputes this charge. Thomas
acknowledges, however, that in December 2005, at a Knicks game, he attempted to
kiss Browne Sanders on the
cheek; when Browne Sanders pulled
away, Thomas replied, “no love today?” (2009). During 2005 as well,
Browne Sanders raised questions about alleged sexual
harassment of other female employees by Knicks personnel. In June 2005, Browne Sanders informed her supervisee Dan Gladstone
that one of Gladstone’s subordinates, Hassan Gonsalves, had been accused of
making harassing and derogatory comments towards female Knicks employees and
about Browne Sanders. When
Gladstone questioned Stephon Marbury, a Knicks player and Gonsalves’s cousin,
about Browne Sanders’s allegations, Marbury bluntly expressed his hostility to
Browne Sanders. When Browne Sanders
informed John Moran, MSG’s Vice-President of Employee Relations, about
Gonsalves’s and Marbury’s behavior, Gonsalves was terminated, but Marbury was
not questioned about Browne Sanders’s allegations. Towards the end of 2005,
Browne Sanders began investigating and documenting the
allegedly inappropriate conduct of Thomas and Marbury. In November 2005, Browne
Sanders spoke to Karen Buchholz, a Knicks
Vice-President who reported to Browne Sanders, about
Buchholz’s interactions with Thomas and Marbury, and requested that Buchholz
send her an e-mail documenting those interactions (2009). Around the same time,
Browne Sanders asked Gladstone to document his account
of his conversations with Marbury. In December 2005, Browne Sanders asked another Knicks employee, Gary
Winkler, to send her an e-mail documenting his conversations with Petra Pope,
the head of the Knicks’ dance team, concerning allegations that were denied by
Thomas that he had made inappropriate comments to Pope in 2004 (2009). Browne Sanders also asked other members of her staff to
document incidents of sexual harassment they witnessed at work. Matters came to
a head in December 2005 and January 2006. On December 2 and 4, Browne Sanders, accompanied by Buchholz, met with an
attorney to discuss Browne Sanders’s sexual harassment complaint. On December
22, counsel for Browne Sanders met
with counsel for MSG. At that meeting, Browne Sanders’s counsel informed MSG of
Browne Sanders’s sexual harassment complaint. The attorneys agreed to
“attempt to expedite a negotiated, good faith resolution of Ms. Browne Sanders’ claims.         
     

                
Holdings

On January 24, 2006, Browne Sanders filed the complaint that initiated the
present action, alleging that she was discriminated against on the basis of her
sex and terminated in retaliation for her sexual harassment complaint in
violation of federal, state, and city law. That same day, defense counsel
issued press statements on behalf of their clients. MSG’s and Dolan’s counsel
stated that Browne Sanders’s claim was baseless, and that Browne Sanders was terminated due to her deficient work
performance. Thomas’s counsel stated that Browne Sanders’s claims were an obvious
attempt to get a large sum of money from MSG by taking advantage of Thomas’s celebrity
status (2009). Browne Sanders
responded in a statement denying defendants’ accusations, which she read at a
press conference on January 25, 2006. That same day, Thomas held a press
conference in which he again denied Browne Sanders’s claims and asserted that
Browne Sanders was trying to use him as a pawn for her financial
gain. Thomas held another press conference in which he again denied Browne
Sanders’s claims.

During the discovery, MSG sought and
obtained copies of Browne Sanders’s federal, New York, and New Jersey tax returns
for 2000-2005 (2009). The 2001-2004 returns originally produced to MSG included
Schedule C deductions for the expenses of a direct marketing business, totaling
approximately $73,000. However, Browne Sanders
shortly thereafter produced amended federal and state tax returns for 2003 and
2004. The 2003 and 2004 tax returns had been amended the day after Browne
Sanders’s initial production to remove the Schedule C deductions. The amendment
resulted in the elimination of approximately $20,000 of business deductions for
2003 and 2004. Browne Sanders
asserts that she did not amend her 2001 and 2002 tax returns on the advice of
her current accountant, who informed her that there is a three-year ruling of
limitations for amending tax returns (2009). Since her termination, Browne Sanders claims that she has applied for jobs
with “many potential employers” in a wide variety of businesses. At
the time the motions were filed, Browne Sanders was
working as an independent contractor for a non-profit organization. Sanders’
annual compensation was less than half of what she earned at MSG. According to
Browne Sanders, since her termination, she has been
repeatedly questioned about the circumstances of her dismissal from MSG by
prospective employers and recruiters, some of whom have referred to her
dismissal from MSG as a reason for her rejection from employment. As a result
of her alleged injury, Browne Sanders seeks
to recover approximately $600,000 in back pay, $9,762,000 in front pay and
reputation damages through age 65, an unspecified amount for lost pension
payments and stock options, and reinstatement (2009).

             Reasoning

Plaintiff alleges that defendants involved
in unlawful conduct by discriminating against her on the basis of her sex,
subjecting her to sexual harassment, and retaliating against her for her sexual
harassment charge. None of the parties move for judgment as a matter of law on
plaintiff’s sex discrimination or sexual harassment claims. Thus, the merits of
those claims will be determined by a jury at trial, and the Court will not
discuss their merits except to the extent that a discussion of the underlying
claims is necessary to determination of the pending motions. However, both
plaintiff and defendants argue that they are entitled to judgment as a matter
of law on certain of plaintiff’s other claims. The plaintiff argues that she is
entitled to judgment on the retaliation claim, while defendant Thomas argues
that he is entitled to judgment on that same claim insofar as it is asserted
against him. In addition, all three defendants allege that certain of
plaintiff’s claims for damages are barred as a matter of law (White, 2010). Thus,
the pending motions require the Court to consider the evidence bearing on
plaintiff’s retaliation and damages claims. However, as stated above, such
consideration of the merits does not constitute fact-finding by the Court.

Instead, the following discussion only identifies significant factual disputes
which preclude the granting of judgment as a matter of law. The Court’s
responsibility at this juncture is only to identify the factual disputes
contained in the record; it will be the jury’s responsibility to resolve those
disputes at trial. The Court’s responsibility is to determine if there is a
genuine issue to be tried, and not to resolve disputed issues of fact. The
Court must draw all reasonable inferences and resolve all ambiguities in the nonmoving
party’s favor, and construe the facts in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party (White,
2010).

If, however the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly
probative, summary judgment may be granted. The party seeking summary judgment
bears the burden of showing that no genuine factual dispute exists. Once the
moving party has made a showing that there are no genuine issues of material
fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to raise triable issues of fact.

A genuine issue for trial exists if, based on the record as a whole, a
reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party. If there is any
evidence in the record from which a reasonable inference could be drawn in
favor of the opposing party, summary judgment is improper.

 

 

 

 

              

 

     

 

 

 

 Question

 

2-17. Do you think Ms. Browne Sanders had
the basis for a sexual harassment suit? Why or why not?

In
the case of Anucha Browne Sanders v. Madison Square Garden, the plaintiff
Browne Sanders had a strong case for a sexual harassment suit because of the given
unwanted attention. It was gender-based, when complained to HR, Sanders was
fired within a month.  The EEOC
guidelines were not taken into consideration. MSG could have solved the problem
in-house instead of firing Ms. Browne. There was not a thorough investigation conducted,
an investigation with proper documentation of the findings going against
Sanders’ claim. If the case could not identify nothing about a sexual
harassment policy, even if they had one, they should have abided by their
policy and/or improved/created one. Furthermore, before terminating an employee
for poor performance, MSG should have recorded any warnings that were given to
the plaintiff. There should be a system put in place that requires all
documentation for terminating employees. Lastly, actions that are needed to be taken
against Isiah Thomas and the MSG should present a press conference about the
ways MSG and Knicks are improving the company to ensure this will not happen
again. Ultimately, it would have suited Sanders’ better for her case if there
had been better witnesses as well.

 

 

2-18. From what you know of this case, do
you think the jury arrived at the correct decision? If not, why not? If so,
why?  The
jury did arrive at the appropriate decision given the facts that were presented
in this case.  The Garden had a responsibility to demonstrate concrete
reasons for their termination decision.  It does not appear that any
specific reasons were shared with the jury.

 

 

2-19. Based on the few facts that you have,
what steps if any could Garden management have taken to protect themselves from
liability in this matter? MSG
management should have provided documentation on the details on where, when, and
how Sanders was negligent in her job functions. The MSG manage to create a weak
and general statement of “her performance had been subpar” was not convincing
enough for the court to be in the defendant’s favor. Furthermore, the MSG could
have done more research on Sander’s past and gather poor character or even witnesses
in their favor that could testify negatively against her.

 

 

2-20. Aside from the appeal, what would you
do now if you were the Gardens top management?

 When the time came when the jury needed to
have a judgement, they were unable to arrive to appropriate decision with the evidence
that was presented to the court.  The Garden had a responsibility to
demonstrate concrete reasons for their termination decision.  There appeared
to be any specific reasons were shared with the jury.