Seventeen Veteran Baseball Scouts Sue Baseball for Age Discrimination
(Editor’s Note: Below is an excerpt from an article from the most recent Sports Litigation Alert. The author, Ed Edmonds, is a Professor Emeritus of Law at the Notre Dame Law School. His scholarly interests include labor and antitrust issues in baseball.)
By Ed Edmonds
Seventeen veteran baseball scouts filed an Age Discrimination in Employment Act (29 U.S.C. §§ 621–634) lawsuit against Commissioner Rob Manfred and all thirty MLB clubs on June 21 in the United States District Court for Colorado. The lawsuit also raised claims under eleven different state laws (Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Utah) and a New York City ordinance.
The crux of the action is that after Manfred succeeded Bud Selig as commissioner in 2015, he initiated a “One Baseball” initiative that included the replacement of older, veteran scouts with younger ones more aligned with newer analytical methods. “In 2020, 2021 and 2022, based on Defendants’ application of Rule 3(k), hundreds of Scouts’ contracts were not renewed or Scouts otherwise had their employment terminated, and the Club Defendants and the MLB Defendants subsequently have acted to prevent the reemployment of Older Scouts or refused the reemployment of Older Scouts.”
Perhaps the most damning assertion in the complaint is that a list of “Older Scouts” was circulated to teams with instruction not to hire anyone on the list. If the plaintiffs can prove the existence of the list effectively blacklisting these veteran scouts, this could be a key component of a successful outcome. Discover will be important in this action because if the plaintiffs can force production of an actual list or depose someone within Major League Baseball, it will put the Commissioner’s Office in a similar position to the Collusion decision involving Commissioner Peter Ueberroth regarding free agents in 1985-1986-1987.
Scouts sign a Uniform Employment Contract much like players sign a Uniform Player Contract. However, unlike players, scouts are not unionized, and, thus, are not accorded the advantages of collective bargaining. However, despite the wording of Rule 3(k) involving tampering not specifically mentioning the coverage of scouts, MLB has applied it to scouts, and in paragraph 67 of the original complaint “allege, upon information and belief, that Defendants have expressly or impliedly agreed that Rule 3(k) applies to Scouts. Defendants have accordingly coordinated their behavior and have implemented a pattern, practice and de facto rule applicable to Scouts prohibiting communication about job opportunities while a Scout is under contract with a Club” leading in the following paragraph to an assertion that such behavior “inhibits lateral hiring and restrains the Scout labor market.”
Thus, during the COVID-19 years of 2020, 2021, and 2022, while Major League Baseball was suffering revenue losses, they did not renew many of the contracts of senior, experienced, scouts or outright terminated many of the contracts of these older scouts. A quick look at the Chicago Cubs treatment of named plaintiff Jim Benedict illustrates the gravamen of the complaint in this lawsuit. In August 2020, Benedict was informed that his Chicago contract that ran through the end of October would not be renewed even though three years earlier Theo Epstein had trumpeted Cubs hiring of the veteran known as “the pitcher whisperer.” The former minor league pitcher in the mid-1980s had thirty years of experience as a pitching coach, pitching coordinator, scout, and front-office employee. The complaint stated that beyond any attempt by Major League Baseball to argue that these staff cuts were a result of revenue shortfalls, all thirty teams conspired … (To read the full story, visit Sports Litigation Alert.)
James S. Benedict, Christopher Bourjous, Richard T. Ingalls, Randall G. Johnson, Steven E. Jongewaard, William C. Latham, Theodore Lekas Jr., Timothy A. McIntosh, Steven Pope, Rick L. Ragazzo, Paul W. Runge, Jeffrey N. Scholzen, Dennis M. Sheehan, Christopher J. Smith, Scott Treka, Gregory G. Whitworth, and Robert D. Wilfong.
A copy of the complaint is available at Corrado Rizzi’s June 23, 2023, article on the ClassAction.org website –
¶ 70, Original Complaint.
¶ 79, Original Complaint.
For an excellent summary of MLB’s collusion regarding free agents, see Mark Normandin, MLB Collusion, Explained: Everything You Need to Know About Collusion in MLB, SBNation.com, January 18, 2018, available at https://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2018/1/18/16882650/mlb-collusion-offseason-free-agency-explainer.
(k)TAMPERING. To preserve discipline and competition, and to prevent the enticement of players, coaches, managers and umpires, there shall be no negotiations or dealings respecting employment, either present or prospective, between any player, coach or manager and any Major or Minor League Club other than the Club with which the player is under contract, or acceptance of terms, or by which the player is reserved or which has the player on its Negotiation List,or between any umpire and any baseball employer other than the baseball employer with which the umpire is under contract, or acceptance of terms, unless the Club or baseball employer with which the person is connected shall have, in writing, expressly authorized such negotiations or dealings prior to their commencement.
Gordon Wittenmyer, Layoffs of ‘Pitcher Whisperer’ Benedict, Others Could Hit Cubs Hard, NBS Sports Chicago, August 31, 2020, https://www.nbcsportschicago.com/mlb/chicago-cubs/layoffs-of-pitcher-whisperer-benedict-others-could-hit-cubs-hard/157125/