The Dallas Mavericks’ Independent Investigation into Workplace Misconduct Revealed

On September 19, 2018, independent investigators released “The Report of the Independent Investigation of Dallas Basketball Limited.” The report grew out of a February 20, 2018 Sports Illustrated article that provided disturbing details of sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct that took place within the Dallas Mavericks’ organization.  For seven months, the investigators interviewed 215 witnesses and poured over 1.6 million documents.  The results were dark, but evidently unsurprising to many who had worked within the Mavericks’ organization.  The investigators substantiated the following claims: allegations by fifteen current and former employees regarding inappropriate comments and touching by former President and CEO Terdmea Ussery; allegations by dozens of current and former employees that Chris Hyde (a former senior ticket sales employee) made inappropriate comments, viewed pornographic images and videos at his office, had a used condom fall out of his pants onto the office floor, and made violent and threatening outbursts in the workplace; and, allegations by two women that they were the victims of domestic violence at the hands of Earl Sneed (former beat writer for the Mavericks).

A link to the Independent Report can be found here.    Following the report, Mark Cuban made a $10 million dollar donation to women’s groups due to what the NBA called “institutional failures” within the Mavericks organization. Interestingly, the investigators found no evidence of workplace misconduct by Mark Cuban, and concluded that Cuban was rarely physically present in the Mavericks’ offices.  The investigators noted the following: “As Cuban acknowledged in his interview, ‘you have to be around the culture to see the culture; I learned the hard way. Because he so often gave direction remotely and did not have scheduled in-person meetings with Ussery or other senior staff, Cuban was not ‘around the culture.’ His absence from the business office kept him from appreciating either the full scope of the misconduct at the Company or the workplace culture at the business office.”

The independent report made 13 recommendations about how the Mavericks’ organization needs to change in order to ensure that nothing like what was found by investigators happens again.  The 13 recommendations are worth reviewing, even if some of them will not be applicable to your organizations.  Most important, however, was the investigators’ comment that it was not an accident that the individuals named in the report were able to thrive and engage in such widespread misconduct for many years.  As the investigators noted, the “organizational shortcomings” allowed this culture of abuse to thrive, and the failure of the organization to respond to reports of misconduct caused even greater harm.

The 43 page Independent Report about the Mavericks should inspire every organization to ensure that it is diversifying its leadership, implementing effective and formalized harassment reporting processes that provide multiple avenues for reporting harassment and abuse in the workplace, holding executives accountable for the culture of the workplace, regularly training the workforce on what is acceptable and what is not, and ensuring that no one is able to use a position of power to victimize employees in the workplace. As the investigators note, once the report was issued, the Mavericks responded immediately and are transforming into “a safe, fair, and professional workplace.”  Everyone should consider it part of their responsibility to make their workplace just such a space.

If your organization finds itself addressing complaints of harassment and abuse in the workplace, the lawyers at McMahon Berger P.C. can help you from investigation to transformation.  The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters for over sixty years, and are available to discuss these issues and others. As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.