According to a complaint filed this week in New York, two licensed massage therapists, Christina Scavo and Shannon O’Toole, claim that the New York Jets never called them back to provide therapy for the Jets after Scavo’s husband called Favre to complain during training camp in 2008 that he had propositioned her by text message. O’Toole claims that she was blacklisted by the Jets because she introduced Scavo to the Jets. Neither plaintiff apparently complained to the Jets following the alleged proposition or at anytime while Favre was still playing for the Jets and there is no indication that Favre continued to proposition Scavo after her husband’s call.
But in October 2010, Deadspin.com reported the incident without naming the two women. Thereafter, the team’s "massage coordinator" allegedly sent text messages to Ms. Scavo attacking her for going to the press and not contacting her directly to handle the situation. She also reportedly told O’Toole that she would never work for the Jets again. If the plaintiffs’ complaint correctly quotes her text messages to Scavo, the "massage coordinator" appeared to be unfazed by the allegations against Favre and also appeared to acknowledge that prior similar incidents had been handled internally by the Jets.
Of course, the Jets and Favre have been no strangers to these types of allegations recently, which only serves to enhance the plaintiffs’ allegations of a hostile work environment. Nevertheless, there are some interesting twists to this case from a defense perspective. It appears that neither Scavo nor O’Toole actually were employed by the Jets so it is questionable whether a cause of action exists under the state, city and county laws upon which they base their Complaint. If a cause of action does exist, Plaintiffs’ biggest hurdle would be their failure to report anything to Jets management for more than two years. Regardless, the allegations raise an important issue for employers.
Specifically, employers need to re-examine their willingness sometimes to overlook inappropriate conduct by their "superstar" employees. Now, I am aware of no evidence that the Jets knew of Favre’s apparent texting habits while he was employed there, but that fact would call into question the effectiveness of the Jets’ communication of their sexual harassment policies — particularly in light of prior allegations against Favre made by Jets’ sideline reporter Jenn Sterger. If the Jets were aware of Favre’s text messages, this situation very clearly demonstrates that an employer cannot afford to permit any employee, no matter how valuable they may be, to consider themselves above the law. Brett Favre’s tenure in New York was very short-lived, but the Jets are still paying the price.