From my February 2011 "Termination of Employment" Bulletin:
New York Jets Sued for Sexual Harassment of Message Therapists
According to the website www.nj.com, “Christina Scavo and Shannon O’Toole filed suit in Manhattan court against the Jets, a team massage coordinator and former Jets QB Brett Favre, alleging complaints about sexually suggestive messages from Favre in 2008 cost them their part-time jobs with the team.”
The Jets organization replied with a statement that calls the women’s allegations “completely without merit,” adding, “Unfortunately, the plaintiffs never reported the allegations to the Jets, either during or after the conclusion of their work.”
The suit, filed on January 3rd in the New York Supreme (trial) Court, comes hot on the heals of a another sexually charged incident involving the NFL team’s famous quarterback. Reported Reuters on January 4th, “The NFL last week fined Favre $50,000 for what it said was a failure to cooperate with a league investigation of a separate alleged incident involving another female Jets employee. Favre was accused of sending that woman, Jenn Sterger, lewd photos and suggestive text messages while both were with the Jets in 2008.”
Facts. The factual allegations in the complaint are as follows:
11. For many years, Christina Scavo worked as a massage therapist for the Jets at its Long Island training camp for various individual players and performed outcalls/outsourced treatments at other locations including players' homes….
12. For many years, Shannon O'Toole worked as a massage therapist for the Jets at its Long Island training camp for various individual players during training camp and at other locations including players' homes.…
13. Christina Scavo was introduced to defendant Ripi by Shannon O'Toole to act as a massage therapist for the Jets.
14. The defendant Lisa Ripi by her own admission was the go-to person if one wanted to be a massage therapist for the Jets and as she stated, “everything at the Jets went through me.”
15. Significantly, the massage therapists for the Jets are predominantly women and young women.
16. In or about the summer of 2008, Christina Scavo and other female massage therapists were performing work at the Jets training camp in New York on Jets players including defendant Favre.
17. Shortly after Christina Scavo and another massage therapist had performed massages at the Jets training camp, the defendant Favre sent a text message to plaintiff Scavo's fellow massage therapist, who had massaged Favre at camp earlier, stating, “Brett here you and crissy want to get together im all alone.” [sic].
18. Thereafter the defendant Favre sent another text message to the same massage therapist, stating, “Kinda lonely tonight I guess I have bad intentions.”
19. When plaintiff Christina Scavo brought these text messages concerning Favre's solicitation of her and of his “bad intentions” to the attention of her husband, Joseph Scavo, Mr. Scavo decided to contact the defendant Favre.
20. Mr. Scavo contacted the defendant Favre and requested that he stop soliciting his wife for “bad intentions” or to get together with her. Mr. Scavo further requested that Favre apologize for his inappropriate behavior of sexual harassing Christina Scavo and other massage therapists.
21. The defendant Favre responded in an inappropriate manner and refused to apologize or to take any other action.
22. Following Mr. Scavo's telephone call to the defendant Favre, shortly thereafter, the plaintiffs Christina Scavo and Shannon O'Toole were never again called to provide massage therapy for the Jets.
23. Once the media reported that the Jets locker room and training camp were apparently a hot bed of sexual harassment, sexism and inappropriate behavior, naming such persons as the Jets sideline reporter, Jenn Sterger, to whom the defendant Favre had apparently sent improper text messages and allegedly explicit photographs, and improper behavior involving the Mexican television reporter Ines Sainz, and a media report involving some unnamed massage therapists that the defendant Favre had likewise harassed, the defendant Ripi took it upon herself to send a text message to Christina Scavo on or about October 11, 2010, in which she stated “everything at the Jets went through me and you know that.”
24. The defendant Ripi further stated in that same text message, “why didn't u come to me,” and went on to state in colorful language, “Your husband is a complete asshole,” and “thanks to you ill be quesationed by the nfl investigators....” [sic].
25. Ms. Ripi, waxing eloquently, went on to state:
There are ways to handle things in a professional manner and ways to be compensated not in public...poorjudegemnt....I've been up there 13 yrs without anything that happened to me on tmz...cuz it was hanndled internally the way it shd be. And ur husbd shlve repsected the fact that the jets wldve ttakecare of it. All this nonsense is unecessary. He is what he is...and I won't take that back. He doesn't run ur business. you do and its a ereflection on you the way u allowed it to be handled. Holdong on to texts for two years is questionable as far as ur intention and not telling anyone about it. [sic].
26. Ms. Ripi's conduct clearly indicates that there had been prior similar incidents which the Jets had taken care of and concealed the matters so that they would not be revealed to the media or the public.
27. In telephone calls to plaintiff O'Toole, defendant Ripi threatened “Chrissy and you will never work for the Jets again” and threatened plaintiff O'Toole to “keep your mouth shut” and that other massage therapists should head this warning as well.
28. Ms. Ripi acknowledged Favre's improper behavior:
For sure feel horrible that u had to go thru that w a pervert...however I truly wish u wldve came forward at the time it happened...you sureley wldve gotten the treatment you were looking for in the moment. He was wrong on all counts...and we cldve helped u a lot more at that time.[sic].
29. Defendant Ripi made good on her threats to plaintiff O'Toole as in fact, soon after Mr. Scavo made this complaint to Favre not to solicit his wife or other massage therapists for sexual purposes, the plaintiffs never again were called to work for the Jets nor did anyone from the Jets contact them to investigate or determine what had occurred.
30. The plaintiffs here refrained from filing suit in the misguided hope that the NFL would take some meaningful action as against defendant Favre for his improper behavior with Ms. Scavo, Ms. Sterger and others.
31. Unfortunately, instead of taking any meaningful action, the NFL, after an alleged extensive investigation, which according to the media used former FBI agents and other extensive resources, provided no meaningful report, made no findings, waited until the regular football season was basically over and Favre was retiring from football and then reached the inexplicable and rather shocking conclusion that Favre did not violate any league policies regarding conduct in the workplace but rather merely failed to cooperate.
32. The NFL imposed what is a relatively meaningless fine of $50,000 after probably spending a hundred times that amount on its alleged investigation and public relations attempt to derail any inquiry which would determine what occurred and to institute procedures to prevent the type of behavior Favre was accused of in the future.
33. Since the NFL took no action, the plaintiffs had no choice but to commence their own legal action to be permitted to work in their chosen profession without being harassed, to recover the damages they had suffered and hopefully, maybe someday, to deter players in the NFL from acting inappropriately with other women who are required to come into contact with football players within the scope of their work and to encourage other women who are harassed by professional athletes in the workplace to come forward without fear of retribution.
The complaint goes on to add, perhaps somewhat tongue in cheek, “34. The conduct of the Jets and the NFL is tantamount to the scene in the movie Casablanca where the police captain, while pocketing his winnings at the roulette wheel stated, ‘I am shocked, shocked, to find gambling going on in this establishment!’” In support of this rather facetious allegation, plaintiffs’ attorneys point to the team’s “scantily clad sexually provocative cheerleaders” and employment of a former Sports Illustrated model as a team spokeswoman.
The plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages. [Scavo and O’Toole v Favre, New York Jets LLC, and Ripi, 2011 WL 7362 (Supreme Court of New York, Trial Pleading, Jan. 3, 2011).]