Chicago Cubs Have to Produce Original Emails in Former Scout’s Lawsuits

On October 18, 2017, a former professional baseball scout with the Chicago Cubs Baseball Club, Dennis Henderson, sued the Cubs for violating the California Labor Code, California Family Rights Act, and for discriminating against him on the basis of his age and disability. Henderson is over 40-years-old and had hip surgery while employed with the Cubs. While Henderson worked for the Cubs, he was responsible for scouting three professional baseball organizations; however, according to the Cubs summary judgment motion, scouts who were performing well were offered multi-year contracts but Henderson was only allowed to offer one-year employment contracts because there were concerns about his capabilities as a professional scout.

The Cubs allege that age was not a motivating factor in their refusal to renew Henderson’s contract, because “during the 2017 season, at least seven out of the Cubs’ 14 professional scouts were 40-years-old or older.” Further, the Cubs allege that age was not a motivating factor, because Henderson’s 2014 hip replacement surgery did not cause him to miss work. Also, in 2016, when Henderson began to experience issues and had a second surgery, “he continued with his normal routine and it did not interfere with his job,”. It was also noted that Henderson “did not submit any medical documentation concerning his alleged disability.”

As a professional scout, Henderson was “responsible for seeing, evaluating, and reporting on player personnel … for recommendation to, and consideration by, the General Manager in possible player transactions.” He was also required to produce scouting reports, in which Henderson would provide his evaluation of a player’s various “descriptors.” According to the Cubs, Henderson performed poorly as a scout. When a new Director of Professional Scouting, Jared Porter, joined the Cubs in August 2015, the former director, Joe Bohringer, and his second-in-command, Andrew Bassett, each independently sorted the Cubs’ scouts into three tiers. Allegedly, the two wrote that Henderson was “simply writing what he saw and [let] others make decisions” and “[his] ceiling is only average.”

On August 29, 2015, Bohringer sent Porter an email listing Henderson in the lowest of three tiers and on August 31, 2015, Bassett also sent an email listing Henderson in the lowest of the tiers. Allegedly, Porter only decided to renew Henderson’s 2015-2016 contract after he spoke to the Cubs’ Senior Vice President of Player Development and Amateur Scouting, a long-time friend of Henderson, who asked Porter to give Henderson a chance. By October 2015, Porter allegedly observed Henderson’s performance deficiencies firsthand. When Henderson’s contract was set to expire, on August 24, 2016, Porter and drafted an email stating that he wanted to refrain from offering Henderson a new contract, but he wanted to provide him with health insurance beyond the expiration of his employment, so he could care for his alleged health issue.

On May 7, 2018, the Cubs filed a motion for summary judgement in Henderson’s case. However, on May 24, 2018, Henderson’s motion to compel further production of documents was granted. Specifically, the Cubs must produce unredacted versions of the August 31, 2015, August 29, 2015, and the August 24, 2016 emails. According to U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson, “[a]ll three emails are relevant. In this case, [Henderson] alleges that he was terminated because of his age and disability whereas [the Cubs] claim [they] terminated [Henderson] because of poor job performance. As its core, a claim of discrimination is a claim that the plaintiff was treated differently from other similarly situated employees. These emails provide insight into how management compared [Henderson] to other similarly situated employees.”

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