A longtime Los Angeles Lakers Spanish-language radio announcer today sued the team and Time Warner Cable for “no less than” $1 million in a discrimination and harassment complaint. “The Lakers have treated Plaintiff differently and less favorably than his Anglo-American counterparts in terms of wages, hours and conditions of employment,” claims Fernando Gonzalez in a 28-page filing today in LA Superior Court (read it here). The plaintiff is seeking a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and a variety of damages for “a money judgment representing compensatory damages including lost wages, earnings, income, and other employee benefits, and all other sums of money, together with interest on these amounts; for other special damages; and for general damages for mental pain and anguish and emotional distress.” Besides the Lakers and TWC, Gonzalez has named Tim Harris, the Lakers SVP Business Operations, TWC Programming VP Pablo Urquiza and SVP and General Manager for TWC Sports Regional Networks Mark Shuken as defendants too. Gonzalez also evokes the federal Fair Employment and Housing Act, which prohibit discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
Claiming the adverse employment actions were because of his “race, national origin and age,” the 53-year-old Mexico-born 18-year employee of the NBA team says the Lakers have discriminated against him for decades. He also claims that because of his advancing years, two younger men with allegedly “little or no experience in basketball” were hired in late 2011 as on-air TV talent to provide play-by-play for the Spanish-language sports network TWC Deportes even though he wanted the gig and was qualified for it. Although still an employee of the Lakers organization, Gonzalez says the “despicable conduct” enacted against him because he cried foul leads him to believe his latest contract will not be renewed when it is up in 2015.
In late 2012, Gonzalez says the team “retaliated” against him “for complaining about discrimination” by giving him a new contract that cut his workload and paycheck in half. Harris “disingenuously responded that because of the new ‘partnership’ between THE LAKERS and TWC, henceforth TWC would be responsible for paying ‘the other half ‘ of Plaintiff’s compensation, provided that Plaintiff worked the requisite number of days on television shows broadcast by TWC, other than THE LAKERS’ games,” says the suit. It adds that Harris “then guaranteed that TWC would not take any action adversely affecting Plaintiff’s overall compensation.” Gonzalez says that during the 2012-13 season he was contacted by TWC for other “assignments” that would have seen his pay back to its previous level, but he claims that the Lakers organization would not let him pursue these opportunities. “THE LAKERS’ unconscionable refusal constituted additional retaliation against Plaintiff for the exercise of his protected rights, and signaled THE LAKERS’ intention to begin putting Plaintiff out to pasture,” says the 8-claim request for a jury trial. “Accordingly, during the 2013-2014 season, Plaintiff’s fears became a reality: TWC failed and refused to schedule Plaintiff for more than 60% to 70% of the requisite number of dates. Plaintiff’s lost income would amount to approximately $30,000 annually.”
The filing adds: “Because the acts taken toward Plaintiff were carried out by managerial employees acting in a deliberate, cold, callous, cruel and intentional manner, in conscious disregard of Plaintiff’s rights and in order to injure and damage him, Plaintiff requests that punitive damages be levied against Defendants and each of them, in sums in excess of the jurisdictional minimum of this court.”
Gonzalez is represented by attorney Lisa L. Maki and Allison M. Schulman of LA firm the Law Offices of Lisa L. Maki.