Age Bias in MLB Leads to Age Discrimination Lawsuit That May Benefit the Average Worker

Recently, Kilgore & Kilgore lawyers Mitch Abeita, Bob Goodman and Eric Roberson filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball (“MLB”) on behalf of MLB scouts alleging that Major League Baseball and individual clubs discriminated against older recruiters based on age. The case of Benedict v. Manfred cites violations of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Texas Labor Code in addition to the laws of 11 other states. This lawsuit specifically names Robert Manfred, the Commissioner of Baseball, MLB, the Houston Astros, and the Texas Rangers.

Tackling age bias in MLB, a huge and well-funded behemoth, is not for the faint of heart. It would be a mistake, though, to understand the Benedict case as just a baseball lawsuit. Baseball is a business unlike anything else. The protections of employee rights, on the other hand, are for all of us. If you have that sinking feeling that your employer is pushing you out the door because of age bias, you may be right. Call us to get the protection you need to survive and win the game.

Kilgore & Kilgore Lawyers Go to Bat for Employees Who Face Age Discrimination at Work

Reach out to us if you believe that your employee rights have been violated, if you have experienced age discrimination, other forms of workplace discrimination, wrongful termination, or retaliation. Submit the form you find by clicking this link Contact Kilgore & Kilgore. Or call us at (214) 949-9099. We want to hear from you.

Age discrimination in employment, even if the workplace is a baseball diamond, is more common than many people think. For more information on our employment law practice, click here Employment Rights Discrimination. Our employment attorneys are experienced with handling cases of age discrimination in the workplace and all other forms of illegal employment practices.

Age Discrimination on the Field of Dreams

Long gone are the days when grizzled old scouts, many of them former players, roamed the backroads in beat up Buicks looking for a diamond in the rough. Today, scouts no longer rely on informal networks of high school, college, and American Legion coaches who swear they’ve seen the next Nolan Ryan. Sophisticated statistical analyses and state-of-the-art algorithms now help recruiters spot talent.

There are doubters, of course. What advantage the Moneyball approach offers is subject to debate, especially now that all the clubs use it. Because the numbers game is historical, it may perpetrate outmoded racial prejudices and other types of discrimination. And then, there is ageism. The older scouts are not out of the game when it comes to baseball statistics, but that is the assumption that may get hung around their necks.

This new lawsuit filing brought by Kilgore & Kilgore lawyers alleges that older scouts were blacklisted for re-employment by MLB, and that the league used analytics as an ongoing pretext for coordinated and systematic discrimination based on age. The Benedict v. Manfred case also alleges that the MLB used the pandemic as an opportunity to terminate an entire class of older workers thought to be more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus. Below are some of the details that could turn a Human Resources manager’s hair white:

  • In November 2020, the scouting director for the San Francisco Giants told a 63-year-old scout, Rick Ragazzo, that the team would probably “go younger” or hire internally;
  • The director of Latin American recruiting for the Atlanta Braves reportedly told former scout Gordon Blakeley that he was on a secret list maintained by several clubs of scouts who could not be hired back into professional baseball because of, among other things, their age.

Age Discrimination and Workplace Discrimination Violates Texas and Federal Law

In May 1922, in the case of Federal Baseball Club v. National League, the U. S. Supreme Court held that MLB was exempt from federal antitrust laws. That bit of baseball history has had wide-ranging implications. America’s national pastime occupies a unique place in law and has developed unique ways of doing business. It is a little difficult, therefore, to generalize from baseball facts (and players are governed differently than staff) to the legal principles that apply to the rest of us. Below is a brief outline of the protections of employment law that cover most Americans.

Texas Is Employment-at-Will, with Exceptions

In Texas, as in most of the U.S., the law views most workers as at-will employees. At-will employees can generally be terminated for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all, but there are carve-outs. More specifically, Section 21.051 of the Texas Labor Code provides that:

An employer commits an unlawful employment practice if because of race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, or age, the employer:

  1. fails or refuses to hire an individual, discharges an individual, or discriminates in any other manner against an individual in connection with compensation or the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment; or
  2. limits, segregates, or classifies an employee or applicant for employment in a manner that would deprive or tend to deprive an individual of any employment opportunity or adversely affect in any other manner the status of an employee.

The federal ADEA, which is specific to age, protects certain applicants and employees who are 40 or older from age discrimination in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. The sweep of the phrase “terms and conditions of employment” is very wide. Under the ADEA, even terms and conditions that appear neutral on their face may run afoul of the law if they have a disparate impact on older workers.

What Happens When You Lose your Fastball?

Nolan Ryan was born in the small southeastern Texas town of Refugio (2021 population 2,790). He threw for an astounding 27 years with the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, New York Mets, and California Angels. Ryan’s pitches consistently clocked at more than 100 miles an hour, but his arm eventually gave out when he tore a ligament in 1993. He was 46. That makes him about 19 when he started.

He had a soft landing, though. After a series of management jobs, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999. He is now a 76-year-old grandpa who raises beef cattle on the side. A soft landing is not the rule for the background toilers – like Rick Ragazzo — who worked to make the magic of baseball happen. After 34 years in the game, he cannot find work. In his own words: “It doesn’t seem right.”

We Have Answers to Your Questions About Employee Rights

Our Texas lawyers have decades of experience protecting employee rights and bringing employment discrimination claims based on age, gender, race, sex, religion and disability. Do you believe you have been on the receiving end of illegal practices or other illegal workplace issues? Reach out to Kilgore & Kilgore Lawyers for a free review of the facts of your case. Click here contact Kilgore & Kilgore, fill out and submit the form. We will contact you to determine whether we can help.

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