“Ya Gotta Believe,” . . . But Who?

by Peter Link

America’s pastime for over the past one hundred years has been baseball. Baseball and, in particular, the New York Mets have been some of my greatest passions for as long as I can remember. On the field, it is one of the most graceful games ever thought of, and in the office it can be one of the most meticulous and painstaking jobs in America. The Mets have brought me, as a fan, a variety of highs and quite a few lows. Through it all there is still a love for the Mets organization. However, one of the newest events for the team has been a lawsuit brought by the recently fired Vice President of ticket sales, Leigh Castergine.[1]

Currently, the Mets are on pace for their sixth straight losing season, tied for the longest streak in Major League Baseball.[2] As each year has passed and another losing season has been put in the books, attendance at the Mets’ new facility, Citi Field, has dropped.[3] Enter Castergine. Castergine was brought in by the Mets, in 2010, to boost ticket sales for the struggling team during lean times.[4] Castergine had worked with previous organizations, such as the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the Orlando Magic, as well as the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins.[5] She brought in new ticket selling ideas to try and help a team put people in the stands, when the team was struggling.[6] She was deemed successful enough by the team to receive bonuses for her earlier work.[7] However, earlier this year, the relationship between Mets’ Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon and Castergine is alleged to have gone sour when news surfaced she was pregnant out of wedlock. She was later fired by the Mets for not meeting sales goals. Castergine has filed a claim in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn against Jeff Wilpon and Sterling Mets Front Office, LLC for workplace discrimination.[8] Castergine has claimed that her firing was directly related to her pregnancy out of wedlock, and claims that Jeff Wilpon “frequently humiliated” her.[9]

The heart of Castergine’s claim lies in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[10] In short, the Act does not allow for women to be discriminated against in any employment-related matters if they are pregnant.[11] As the American Association of University Women succinctly put it, “Under the PDA, an employer with fifteen or more employees cannot fire you because you are pregnant, and your employer must permit you to continue working as long as you are able.” [12] The crux of the legal battle will be between Castergine’s claims previously mentioned and the Mets’ claims of slowing performance in the workplace and not meeting team goals. This is where fans must have as much faith in our legal system as we do in our team, to hope for the system to come out with the correct decision.

There is, without a doubt, no place for discrimination against women in any workplace. At a time where other sports have seen problems with domestic violence, the last thing needed in society is more gender-related discrimination. The hard part for fans and media right now is to not jump to conclusions. The public only has so many of the facts, and they can easily be construed to favor one side or the other. We, as fans, of not only the Mets but of baseball, need to walk a fine line in favoring one party or the other. Baseball should be about the crack of the bat and the smell of the hotdog stands. There is no room in the game for gender- and pregnancy-based discrimination, and if it is found it needs to be swiftly eradicated and responsibility needs to be taken by the team and Major League Baseball. My only hope, as a long-loving Mets fan, is for the back page of the New York papers to soon be about the team’s success and not about workplace discrimination.

[1] See Selim Algar, Mets fired me for being pregnant and unwed: exec, THE NEW YORK POST (Sept. 10, 2014, 3:02 PM), http://nypost.com/2014/09/10/former-exec-mets-fired-me-for-being-pregnant-and-single/ (giving a brief description of Castergine and her suit).

[2] Adam Rubin, Morning Briefing: .500 slipping away, ESPNNEWYORK (Sept. 16, 2014, 8:14 AM), http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/mets/post/_/id/95000/morning-briefing-500-slipping-away?ex_cid=espnapi_public.

[3] See Tim Rohan, The Mets Face a Vista of Empty Seats and a Lawsuit, THE NEW YORK TIMES (Sept. 13, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/14/sports/baseball/the-mets-face-a-vista-of-empty-seats-and-a-lawsuit-charged-with-criticism.html?_r=0 (describing the claims of the Castergine suit and giving a background to the Mets’ current ticket selling state).

[4] Id.

[5] See Jared Diamond, Suit Accuses Mets, Jeff Wilpon of Discrimination, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (Sept. 10, 2014, 9:26 PM), http://online.wsj.com/articles/suit-accuses-mets-jeff-wilpon-of-discrimination-1410398781 (showing ideas Castergine implemented while working with the Mets).

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) (2012); see also 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(e)(2)(B) et seq. (2012) (stating that employers of at least fifteen employees must comply with the respective law); 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k) (2012) (stating that “because of sex” or “on the basis of sex” shall encompass matters relating to pregnancy).

[11] Id.

[12] American Association of University Women, Know Your Rights: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), http://www.aauw.org/what-we-do/legal-resources/know-your-rights-at-work/pregnancy-discrimination-act/ (last visited Sept. 18, 2014).

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