Well, when it rains it pours. Jed York and the San Francisco 49ers have been named in an employment discrimination lawsuit. Two former employees claim the organization terminated their employment due to their age, in violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and Older Worker Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA), and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
I've embedded a PDF of the lawsuit down below. It is only 14 pages, and the most pertinent background information for the lawsuit is on pages three through eight. The two employees were fired in 2011, with an explanation that the organization was going in a different direction. The reason the lawsuit is only now being filed is because the two plaintiffs had to exhaust their administrative remedies with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They were eventually given a right-to-sue letter, and have filed within the proper timeframe.
The complain alleges Jed York indicated he wanted to bring in younger tech workers as he looked to turn the 49ers into the startup company of the NFL. It alleges he said he wanted such young tech workers because they "made a lot of money, they did a lot of cool things before they were 40 years old, and they don't want to go play golf six days a week." There was a mention of former team president Gideon Yu referring to older workers as "legacy" employees, which is viewed by some as a discriminatory term for older employees in Silicon Valley.
The complaint below only features their side of the story, but the important thing is that if this lawsuit proceeds, it opens the door for discovery into anything potentially connected to this. If a settlement is not reached, there will be depositions, and that could provide some of the underlying proof that something like this happened. The lawsuit claims a group termination occurred, even though the team tried to spread it out over the course of days, weeks, and months to prove it was not in fact a group termination. The OWBPA requires certain legal steps be taken when a group of older workers is fired, and the 49ers did not follow those steps.
Give the lawsuit a read, and we will certainly be keeping an eye on this. The Kansas City Chiefs faced multiple age discrimination lawsuits in 2011 and 2012 (this one, that one). It appears they won one of them, and another was compelled to go to arbitration. They appear to have been state discrimination lawsuits instead of federal, but I'll try and get a better idea of what went on with them.
One of the Chiefs lawsuits went to trial, but the organization appears to have had what was viewed as a legitimate reason to fire the employee (giving a subordinate a $5,000 raise without permission). The 49ers lawsuit indicates no reason was given other than "we're going in another direction". Discovery will help give us a better idea of what kind of information is out there.
The court will attempt to use alternative dispute resolution, and there will be an initial case management conference on April 10.