It took a timeframe of nearly three years before NBA security official Kelley Hardwick brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against UConn/USA women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, the NBA and USA Basketball. According to several attorneys reached for comment Thursday, the likelihood is that it will take well over a year before a resolution is reached should the case go to trial.
Cory Dalmata, an attorney for the DeLorenzo Law Firm in New York, said that typically it will be about 12 to 18 months before a trial date is given. An out-of-state attorney speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the discovery phase alone could last a year.
“I would be surprised if the initial response by Geno’s lawyers and by the NBA would be anything other than a motion to dismiss,’’ Attorney Joe Garrison of the New Haven firm of Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Chimes, Richardson & Fitzgerald, P.C. said. “The standard for a motion to dismiss is whether the judge thinks that the claims are plausible.
“So it depends on a lot of things. Not the least of which is who the judge is because what’s plausible to one person might not be plausible to another one. So depending on who gets the assignment … I would say if it’s not dismissed the case could be hanging around for a long time in the New York State Courts.’’
Once the attorneys for the defendants file an answer to the charges the discovery phase will commence. It is in this information gathering phase where both sides will take numerous depositions, notably those of Hardwick and Auriemma, and request pertinent documents.
“The attorneys will comb through that and then there will be a status hearing in front of a judge,’’ an attorney said on the condition of anonymity. “But then at some point the judge will set a trial date. In a case like this likely it won’t go to trial for probably two years.’’
From the very beginning of the process the parties are free to engage in talk of a settlement. Garrison and Dalmata said that most often cases are settled out of court. An agreement is made. A judgment is awarded and a confidentiality agreement is likely attached.
Garrison believes the case will at least reach the summary judgment phase.
“Summary judgment is a procedure to have it dismissed after discovery’s been taken and if there’s not enough evidence at that time to persuade a judge that the case should go to trial then it gets dismissed,’’ Garrison said. “I would think that Geno’s lawyers would take it at least that far.’’
While Auriemma is a major player in this lawsuit, a source with knowledge of the situation Thursday did not even dignify the notion that he is danger of losing his job at UConn with a response.
There are two events that truly stand out in the lawsuit. And they transpired nearly three years from one another.
Hardwick is accusing Auriemma of grabbing her by her left arm and then trying to kiss her in a hotel in Russia during an invitational tournament in October of 2009. The incident can be viewed as the foundation of the suit because it is Hardwick’s contention that Auriemma retaliated for being rejected by asking for her to be removed from the security detail that will accompany the U.S. Olympic Team to London next month.
“The initial harassment that he grabbed her and tried to kiss her is a he-said, she-said,’’ Garrison said. “And he says `not a chance’ and she says `yeah.’ So that initial action is very difficult I think for her to prove without any video or anything else. Apparently, she called a friend of hers pretty quickly after this. But she didn’t have any real witnesses. She may have witnesses to what she said happened, but that’s what she said happened. And she’s got to prove that that’s what did happen. This is why I think it’s a hard case, is that three years later he was so miffed by being rejected by her that he retaliated against her by taking her off of the security detail for the Olympics.
“And even that, I don’t know what entitlement she has to it. I don’t know. If she can prove that under normal circumstances that she by seniority or something is entitled to that job, OK. Then at least she’s losing something. But she has to show that she’s got some entitlement to it in the first place I think. If other people are more senior than her or that are better qualified … But she’s got to show that she had some reasonable expectancy of getting that job in the first place. And then if she did she has to show that she didn’t because Geno, all by himself, either was the person whose recommendation made all the difference or had the full authority to decide who was going to go and not go on the security detail anyway.’’
Hardwick, who was hired by the NBA in 2002 and currently serves the league as a Director in the Security Department, was a member of the security detail for the U.S. women’s basketball team in Athens in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008. She also provided security for the U.S. Senior National Team Training Camp/Pre-World Championship in Hartford and Salamanca, Spain in 2010 and for the National Team Training Session in Italy, Spain, Czech Republic and Hungary last October.
According to the lawsuit, Hardwick was notified March 24 by NBA Senior Vice President of Security James Cawley that she would not oversee security in London. It is also written in the suit that none of the male managers in the NBA have the same level of Olympic experience as Hardwick and that she is the most senior basketball manager.
Again, though, the burden of proof falls on Hardwick’s attorney Randolph McLaughlin, of Newman Ferrara LLP in New York, to prove that Auriemma was the individual who is solely responsible for Hardwick being removed from the detail.
“Geno’s a coach,’’ Garrison said. “What he has to do with who’s going on security I don’t have any idea. But to show liability here I think she’d have to show that he was the decision-maker, if you will, for what happened to her.’’