NBA Faces $3 Million Gender Discrimination Action

Posted October 23rd, 2012.

Complaint Details Unlawful Gender Discrimination Against Working Mothers
By One of the Top Professional Sports Organizations in the U.S.

For more information, contact Jamie Moss, newsPRos, 201-493-1027,

(October 23, 2012 New York, NY) – Sanford Heisler, LLP, a leading national civil rights law firm, today filed a gender discrimination suit seeking $3 million on behalf of a Senior Account Manager against the National Basketball Association, Inc., NBA Entertainment, Inc., and NBA Properties, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The Complaint details the NBA’s unlawful treatment of Plaintiff Brynn Cohn, a longtime employee who was underpaid, under-promoted and ultimately pushed out of the organization because of her gender, pregnancy, and infant caregiving responsibilities.

While Hoboken, New Jersey native Ms. Cohn was on pregnancy leave, the NBA’s management changed her department’s hours, demanding that she and other women with caregiving responsibilities work at the office into the evenings even though there was no business need for the late hours.  With no nearby daycare centers open during her evening shifts, and unable to spend thousands of dollars more per year for alternative childcare, Ms. Cohn was constructively forced out of the Company, along with two other women with young children.

“This lawsuit lays bare the open hostility to which women with young children are consistently subjected as NBA employees,” said David Sanford, a Partner at Sanford Heisler and lead attorney for Ms. Cohn.  “In Ms. Cohn’s case, this hostility took the form of discrimination in compensation and promotion opportunities, as well as the adoption of policies at the NBA designed to push out working mothers.”

According to the Complaint, high-level managers in the NBA’s Creative Services Department routinely expressed covert and overt hostility toward female employees who had young children. For example, the Director of the Department compared children to pets, asking why working mothers could not make the same child care arrangements she made for her dogs when she had to work past 5 p.m.

Within this climate of workplace hostility and marginalization, the NBA’s work schedule change in September 2010 had a disparate impact on women with caregiving responsibilities. Under the new schedule, all account managers and designers in the Creative Services Department’s Print group – Ms. Cohn’s division – were required to work in the office from noon to 8 p.m. two days each week.  In order to fulfill the altered work schedule requirements, Ms. Cohn would have had to spend several thousand dollars more on child care annually – a financial burden she could not afford.

Ms. Cohn and other women with young children expressed concern about the impact of the policies on their caregiving responsibilities. In response, the Director of the Department told one mother she would have to make a choice: to be a mother or work at the NBA. The Director also noted that the hours might not be manageable for some employees and she understood if some employees had to move on.

The new working hours were in stark contrast to the hours Ms. Cohn had worked at the NBA for nearly a decade – 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. – and no rationale was given for the change.  Moreover, during the time the changed schedule was in effect, the NBA granted exceptions to male employees and to women without childcare responsibilities, but refused to allow mothers like Ms. Cohn to work remotely.

As a result of the NBA’s change in work schedule, Ms. Cohn was constructively discharged from the job she had held for almost a decade in January 2011. Two other women with young children were also forced to resign for similar reasons. Shortly after Ms. Cohn and the other women were forced out, the Creative Services Department reinstated its previous work schedule.

According to the Complaint, the NBA also retaliated against Ms. Cohn’s fiancé, another NBA employee, when he complained about his partner’s unfair treatment. He was denied a promotion he had been promised and resigned in May 2011.

The Complaint alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, the Equal Pay Act, as well as state law claims. Ms. Cohn requests an award of back pay, front pay, lost job benefits, and other equitable relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages, prejudgment and post-judgment interest, attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses.

Ms. Cohn’s legal team also includes Siham Nurhussein, an attorney in the New York office of Sanford Heisler.

About Sanford Heisler, LLP

Sanford Heisler is a law firm with offices in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco that specializes in employment discrimination, wage and hour, qui tam and consumer actions and complex corporate class action litigation and has represented thousands of individuals in major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents individual clients in employment, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, whistleblower, public accommodations, commercial, medical malpractice, and personal injury matters. In May 2010, the firm won the largest jury award in the U.S. in a gender discrimination employment class action when a jury returned a verdict of $253 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.  In 2012, the firm won court approval to settle a wage and hour case on behalf of sales reps employed by Novartis Pharmaceuticals for $99 million.  For more information, contact Sanford Heisler at (646) 681-7373.