Claims allege MLB used false stereotyping and a “blacklist” against older employees
DENVER — A group of more than 15 former professional baseball scouts is suing Major League Baseball, all 30 MLB teams and Commissioner of Baseball Robert Manfred for allegedly violating federal and state laws that prohibit age discrimination.
The proposed class action filed in federal court in Denver may ultimately involve dozens of other highly experienced professionals who were terminated in favor of younger, less expensive workers during the past three years.
The named plaintiffs, who range from 55 to 71 years of age, claim that as clubs have increasingly emphasized the use of analytics and video in scouting talent, veteran scouts have been denied employment based on a false stereotype that they did not have the ability to adapt to these new tools and technologies. In addition, the lawsuit states that MLB clubs used the COVID-19 pandemic to justify terminating the contracts of older scouts and have collectively blacklisted and denied re-employment to them based on a stance that they are “too old.”
“I think the discrimination that baseball has inflicted on veteran scouts is simply wrong, and terribly sad for those who have invested their lives and careers to the sport,” says Rick Ragazzo, 63, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who served as a scout for the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves during a 35-year career. “When clubs are acting together to profile scouts by age and prevent us from being rehired, it’s very difficult for most to reinvent themselves when approaching the twilight of their professional careers.”
To view brief videos from three plaintiffs in the case, click here.
The lawsuit includes a list of each of the MLB organizations that interviewed one or more of the plaintiffs and later refused to hire any of them, as well as details of specific interactions between scouts and club executives. On multiple occasions and within multiple MLB organizations, plaintiffs seeking to be hired were consistently told the club was “going in a different direction” or would likely “go younger” in scouting, and that a list or lists were being used across baseball to prevent the rehiring of older scouts.
Among the teams that refused to rehire veteran scouts post-COVID, the Atlanta Braves informed one scout that he was on a “list of non-hirable scouts” and the Chicago White Sox told a plaintiff that they were unable to hire another “veteran scout.” Additionally, the suit alleges that all teams regardless of financial strength or market size have refused or failed to return to pre-COVID levels of senior scouts including the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, and San Francisco Giants, as well as the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, and Tampa Bay Rays.
“This lawsuit is about age discrimination within a sport that supposedly values history, tradition and putting the best possible product on the field,” says Mitchell C. Abeita of Dallas-based Kilgore & Kilgore PLLC, attorneys for the plaintiffs. “By diminishing the experience of these scouts, baseball is violating its own brand, as well as federal and state employment laws. We intend to hold all those involved accountable.”
The case is Benedict et al. v. Robert Manfred et al., No. 1:23-cv-01563, filed in the United States District Court in Denver.
For a copy of the lawsuit click here.
Kilgore & Kilgore PLLC is a boutique law firm based in Dallas, Texas, focused on defending employee rights in the courtroom and through arbitration. Founded more than 70 years ago, the firm has established groundbreaking precedents in employment law and antitrust litigation. More information can be found at www.kilgorelaw.com.