N.Y. Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon has denied discriminating against and eventually firing a former female senior executive based on her pregnancy and marital status, specifically, for having a baby out of wedlock. In a lawsuit filed in Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, Wilpon is quoted as saying during a discussion of e-cigarette ads, “I am as morally opposed to putting an e-cigarette sign in my ballpark as I am to Leigh [Castergine] having this baby without being married.” Wilpon is also alleged to have made fun of Castergine by pretending to look for an engagement ring on her finger at meetings, and trashed her to colleagues by saying that “people would respect her more if she was married.” The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for discrimination on the basis of sex, pregnancy and marital status. A Major League Baseball source said the league was aware of the suit and considered it a team matter.
The suit alleged Wilpon told Castergine, who earned a six figure salary, to tell her boyfriend “that when she gets a ring she will make more money and get a bigger bonus.” Castergine gave birth in March 2014 and returned to work in June 2014, but was allegedly urged by other executives to quit.
In August 2014, she claimed that the Mets raised issues about her job performance but offered a severance package if she would agree to not sue or say negative things about the team and Wilpon. Castergine also claims that she was fired August 26, 2014, three minutes after her lawyer sent an email to the team claiming that she was subjected to work-related discrimination. In court papers, however, the Mets asserted that she was fired before they received the email and that it “was based on legitimate business reasons” unrelated to Castergine’s “gender, marital status, pregnancy, or leave.” They pointed to “business issues and conflicts” between Castergine and her supervisor and other executives which began prior to learning that she was pregnant. They also asserted that Wilpon was a longstanding supporter of her.
It remains to be seen if the case goes to trial whether a jury will believe Castergine’s discrimination claims or the Mets’ and Wilpon’s defense that there were independent business reasons unrelated to the plaintiff’s gender, pregnancy and marital status, or leave, all of which comprise categories of discrimination protected by federal and state law.
For workplace issues concerning pregnancy, marital status, leaves, work performance, and gender discrimination or harassment contact the Gilbert Law Group at 631.630.0100.