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Yankees CFO Called Female Employee 'Childish' for Sex Harass Claim: Suit

By James Fanelli | October 13, 2016 7:44am
 The Yankees organization has been hit with 16 employee discrimination claims in the past four years, according to a disclosure it made to the city.
The Yankees organization has been hit with 16 employee discrimination claims in the past four years, according to a disclosure it made to the city.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

CONCOURSE — The Yankees organization has been hit with 16 employee discrimination claims in the past four years, including one by a former female executive assistant who said that one of the team's top brass yelled at her after she complained that male co-workers had called her a "whore face" and "bitch," according to a disclosure the team recently made to the city.

The executive assistant, Holly Kelley, filed a lawsuit against the Yankees in 2014, accusing its chief financial officer of barking at her to stop complaining about sexual harassment and denied her request to speak to the team owner and co-chairman, Hal Steinbrenner, about the derogatory comments.

"Hal doesn't want to talk to you!" CFO Anthony Bruno said to Kelley, according to the lawsuit. "He already knows about this and he doesn't want to discuss this with you! It's stupid and you're being childish."

The Yankees ultimately settled the lawsuit and signed a confidentiality agreement with Kelley.

Kelley's case, which was filed in Florida, where the Yankees have a Tampa office, was among the 16 employee discrimination claims based on either sex, national origin or age made in the past four years against the Yankees. The Yankees had to disclose the claims last month as part of its application with the city's Economic Development Corporation to refinance $1 billion in tax-free bonds that paid for its new stadium.

Another female Yankees employee filed a sexual harassment claim against her supervisor in February 2013. The Yankees reached a confidential settlement agreement with her and fired the supervisor.

Eight of the discrimination claims were filed by contracted cleaners at The Bronx stadium who were fired in 2013 after the Yankees brought their jobs in-house and mandated that employees had to speak English because they might need to answer questions from stadium visitors.

Seven of the axed cleaners filed discrimination claims based on national origin with the New York Division of Human Rights. The other cleaner filed a discrimination claim based on sex with the Division of Human Rights.

All eight of the employees — who were members of the Local 32BJ union — withdrew their complaints after the Yankees agreed to rehire them, give them back wages and pay for English language classes.

READ: Holly Kelley's Lawsuit

The Yankees' application — which DNAinfo New York obtained from the Economic Development Corporation after the claimants' names were redacted — also shows the team settled with another Local 32BJ employee Dec. 23, 2013, after he filed a discrimination claim based on national origin with the state Human Rights Division.

Local 32BJ did not respond to requests for comment.

The employee subsequently filed three more claims with the Human Rights Division based on retaliation for opposing discrimination. One of the claims was dismissed in September 2015 after the Human Rights Division found no probable cause. Another was dismissed in April of this year — the division also found no probable cause. A third is pending.

The Humans Rights Division also dismissed an age discrimination claim against the Yankees in June 2013.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also dismissed an age discrimination claim against the organization in July 2012.

The Yankees' application also shows that it has dealt with 20 union grievance claims in the past four years. The grievances — which range from gripes about working conditions to wrongful suspensions or firings — were mostly all withdrawn after a settlement was reached. However, in four of the wrongful termination grievances, an arbitrator found that the Yankees had just cause to fire an employee.

Yankees spokeswoman Alice McGillion said in a statement that the organization does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. She said the Yankees have an excellent track record as an employer and has a strong working relationship with many unions.

"The New York Yankees have been recognized for a diverse workforce of hundreds, one that is representative of all of New York's communities," she said. "This diversity extends to every level of operations, including senior executives. It is indisputable that the Yankees have not discriminated against anyone, and suggesting otherwise is not only an inaccurate portrayal of the facts, but is indeed irresponsible."

READ: Yankees' Bond Refinancing Application

While the names of the claimants in the discrimination cases were redacted, DNAinfo was able to identify Kelley, who initially filed a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing the Yankees of sexual harassment by co-workers, unequal pay for equal work and retaliation.

The commission dismissed her claim Feb. 19, 2014, after it was unable to conclude whether her charges had or had not occurred.

Kelley, 43, filed her lawsuit in August 2014 in Hillsborough County Court, saying she took a leave of absence from her job — and was ultimately let go — after enduring a hostile and retaliatory work environment for reporting the harassment and the sexually derogatory comments.

Kelley started working for the Yankees in its Tampa office in 2005 as an executive assistant for then-CFO Steve Dauria.

After Dauria left the company in 2007 and was replaced by Bruno, Kelley was moved to the accounting department.

Her lawsuit said that in 2012 she began being harassed by a male co-worker who would throw payable invoices at her desk in an insulting way.

The male co-worker also referred to her as "whore face" in the presence of other co-workers, according to the lawsuit. Kelley also said in the lawsuit that the Yankees' controller — a friend of the male co-worker — referred to her as a "bitch."

After Kelley reported the derogatory comments, Bruno called her into a meeting in April 2012. 

Bruno told Kelley she was making "very serious accusations," but he didn't show any interest in her concerns and noted that she could have been fired after Dauria left the Yankees, according to the lawsuit.

He also said he "was concerned [Kelley] did not have enough work to do if she was so concerned about [her male co-worker]," according to the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit said that in the months after her meeting with Bruno, she followed up several times with him to get an update on her complaint, but was yelled at for continuing to inquire.

In June 2012 she met with Bruno, who informed her that the male co-worker had tendered his resignation.

During the meeting, Bruno was "incredibly insulting" to Kelley, according to the lawsuit. He made his snipe about her being childish and Hal Steinbrenner not wanting to meet with her during this conversation, the lawsuit says.

Kelley said the comments left her in tears, and Bruno wasn't sympathetic.

"What's wrong? You look like you're in turmoil, maybe this isn't the right place for you," Bruno said, according to the lawsuit.

Kelley said in the lawsuit that after the meetings with Bruno she continued to be isolated and was assigned a larger workload as retaliation.

In June 2013, Kelley again requested to speak with Steinbrenner about ongoing harassment and retaliation by the accounting department and Bruno, the lawsuit says.

Steinbrenner responded that he had been informed of the issue but was told it was a personality conflict, the lawsuit says. When Kelley told Steinbrenner about the hostile work environment and how she "could not tolerate further abuse," he said he would speak to Bruno, the lawsuit said.

Kelley said a month later she took an extended leave of absence. The Yankees formally let her go in 2014, the lawsuit says.

Kelley could not be reached for comment. Her lawyer, Craig Berman, declined to comment because the settlement included a confidentiality agreement.

McGillion said in a statement that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dismissed Kelley's claim.

"The New York Yankees denied all of her claims and her false allegations of discrimination and provided evidence to prove they were false to the EEOC," McGillion said. "She pursued the matter in Florida State Court and to put an end to the legal costs, the team settled without any agreement to her allegations, or admission of wrongdoing."

DNAinfo New York reported exclusively in August that an 80-year-old scout filed a lawsuit against the Yankees earlier this year, accusing the team of letting him go because of his age. The Daily News later reported that the Yankees and the scout reached a tentative settlement on the day DNAinfo published its story.