A jury in federal district court in Manhattan awarded Anucha Browne Sanders $11.6 million in punitive damages in her claim against Knicks coach Isiah Thomas for harassing her, and against Madison Square Garden, L.P. and the chairman of Cablevision, the parent company of the Knicks and MSG, for allowing a hostile work environment and firing her when she complained. The jury, which was unable to agree on whether Thomas should have to pay damages individually, will decide on compensatory damages (for things like back pay and benefits and other economic loss) later.
The jury, in federal district court in Manhattan, also ruled that the former executive, Anucha Browne Sanders, is entitled to $11.6 million in punitive damages from the Garden and James L. Dolan, the chairman of Cablevision, the parent company of the Garden and the Knicks.
Of that figure, $6 million was awarded because of the hostile work environment Mr. Thomas was found to have created, and $5.6 million because Ms. Browne Sanders was fired for complaining about it. Mr. Dolan’s share is $3 million; the Garden is liable for the rest.
My speculation is that the jury had trouble with assessing damages for Thomas because he may not have been in any kind of supervisory relationship with Browne Sanders. However, if your employer knows you’re being a douchebag to the other employees, they’re supposed to step in. Not that it sounds like they had much interest in stepping in, given the kind of atmosphere they encouraged among the players:
Today’s verdicts are the latest embarrassment for the Knicks, who have floundered in recent years. The team has had six head coaches since 2001, has only made the playoffs once in that time, and has signed numerous expensive players who have flopped.
During the trial, testimony by witnesses made the inner workings of the Garden appear dysfunctional, hostile and lewd. The Knick’s star guard, Stephon Marbury, testified that he had sex with a team intern in his truck after a group outing to a strip club in 2005.
Here’s the basic allegation Browne Sanders made:
Ms. Browne Sanders, 44, was fired in February 2006 from her position as the Knicks’ vice president for marketing and business operations. She contended that the firing was in retaliation for her sexual harassment complaint.
She testified that Mr. Thomas, 46, subjected her to hostility and sexual advances starting in 2004, after he arrived as team president. She was fired from her $260,000-a-year job by Mr. Dolan, the chairman of the Garden as well as of Cablevision, in 2006.
The Garden countered that Ms. Browne Sanders was fired for incompetence and for interfering with the investigation of her sexual harassment complaint.
The Garden and Dolan and Thomas will, of course, appeal this ruling, so it’s not over yet. But I do like what Browne Sanders had to say:
After the punitive damages were announced, Ms. Browne Sanders appeared outside the courtroom and said the decision was important not just for herself, but also for “the women who don’t have the means and couldn’t possibly have done what I was able to do” and for “everybody that cares about working in a civil work environment.”
Exactly. Good for her.
Unintentional hilarity of the day, from a correction at the bottom of the Times article: An earlier version of this article misstated the location of a 2005 sexual encounter between Stephon Marbury of the Knicks and a team intern. Mr. Marbury testified that it took place in his truck, not in the trunk of his car.
I was gonna say: must have been a big trunk.
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