The lawsuit suggests that the Tigers, along with many other M.L.B. organizations, used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to fire older employees.
Two baseball scouts have filed a lawsuit against the Detroit Tigers, claiming that the Michigan-based team fired them to find younger talent.
According to CBS News, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of two plaintiffs: 68-year-old Gary Pellant of Arizona, and 67-year-old Randall Johnson of California. Both men had decades-long careers as Major League Baseball scouts—careers that they say came to an inglorious end when the Tigers fired them, replacing the two men with much younger scouts.
Although the Tigers have since claimed that Johnson and Pellant’s positions were cut due to COVID-19-related financial hardships, the complaint notes that the Tigers neither requested a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan nor took any other steps to retain employees.
“Also, Defendant was profitable both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lawsuit states. “COVID-19 was a pretextual reason to terminate Plaintiffs’ employment.”
The complaint alleges that the Tigers’ decision belies a broader trend in Major League Baseball. In 2020, for instance, an estimated 30 M.L.B. clubs refused to renew contracts for at least 51 of at least 81 “older scouts.”
“However, even since the pandemic ended and revenues returned, older Scouts like Plaintiffs are being systematically denied reemployment, including through the use of a list or lists and an agreement, pattern, practice, and effective rule to maintain lower numbers of older Scouts throughout Major League Baseball,” the complaint alleges.
Attorneys for the men say that the M.L.B. started to rely on technology for scouting, leading teams to prioritize the hiring of younger scouts—a decision that the lawsuit suggests is predicated on the assumption that older scouts do not know how to use analytics or manage video scouting programs.
The lawsuit claims that Major League Baseball began turning away from older scouts in 2015, when Rob Manfred succeeded Bud Selig as the organization’s commissioner.
“As part of the reform process, M.L.B. endeavored to begin heavily recruiting younger scouts, at the same time intentionally pushing out, from the older scouts with prior knowledge, qualifications, expertise, and training, based on a false stereotype that older scouts lacked the ability to use analytics and engage in video scouting with the same acumen as younger scouts,” the lawsuit says.
“Plaintiffs are among hundreds if not thousands of employees to be separated from employment with defendant in the last eight years as a result of a decision by the defendant and the MLB to replace older employees with younger employees,” the lawsuit says.
Furthermore, the complaint asserts that—even if age was not the sole motivating factor in the plaintiffs’ termination—the Tigers’ actions likely violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
“Even if defendant did not specifically terminate plaintiffs due to their age, defendants’ stated desire to hire scouts that were more adept with technology was based on an age stereotype and had a disparate impact on older scouts, including plaintiffs,” the lawsuit says.
The two scouts are seeking back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.