Monday, August 6, 2007

EEOC vs the NBA?

Can someone explain what's going on here to me? I first saw a mention of this (potential) lawsuit by Roy Tarpley in the USA Today (I think it was this past Friday, but I'm not sure), but the brief description was more confusing than enlightening. Then I saw this slightly more illuminating article the other day, but I'm still a little confused as to the substance of Roy Tarpley's lawsuit.

First, what I think I understand: When a person wants to bring an equal employment discrimination suit, they first file their claim with the EEOC. The EEOC investigates and either says, "Yes, we think you have a good case," or "You don't have a good case." If the former, the defendant is encouraged (but is not required) to negotiate a settlement, and often they will because the EEOC finding often gives a good indication of the eventual trial result. If the latter, the plaintiff can still file suit, but they're unlikely to prevail (again, because the EEOC finding is often a good indicator of the eventual trial result). This system was implemented to try and encourage settlements, reducing the burden on the court system.

In this case, it appears that the EEOC recently decided that Tarpley has a solid case and that the NBA and Tarpley have not been able to reach a settlement agreement. Now Tarpley is planning to sue. My major confusion is over what damages Tarpley thinks he is going to get. The article indicates that the EEOC agrees the NBA violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because the NBA did not reinstate Tarpley, who has passed all his drug tests over the last four years. It's this last part that confuses me--is Tarpley arguing that he should have been reinstated four years ago when he first passed a drug test? If so, does he think the $6.5 million in damages he's seeking represents the salary he would have earned over the last four years? He's 42 now, so I don't understand why he thinks an NBA team would have picked him up at the age of 38, almost ten years from the last time he played competitive NBA basketball. I don't know the numbers, but I'm pretty sure there are only a handful of players that old in the NBA (Dikembe Mutombo, Kevin Willis, anyone else?).

Or is Roy Tarpley arguing that he should have been reinstated much closer to when he was banned in 1995? From the article, it's very unclear to me when he first started passing drug tests again. If he is arguing that he should have been reinstated years ago, and the EEOC is siding with him, then this holding could be very troubling for any sports league attempting to enforce its policies against illegal drugs. After all, Tarpley was suspended from the league for cocaine use, reinstated after a few years, and then banned for good after he violated the terms of his reinstatement. I'm hoping that it's just a lack of clarity in the article, but from what I read I'm having a hard time figuring out what the NBA did wrong. Hopefully another article will appear at some point that sheds a little more clarity on the issues involved.

1 comment:

Louis said...

As a 7-footer who averaged 13 points and 10 boards he probably could have caught back on with a team but according to the article he’s not trying to make a comeback. Maybe if we were more familiar with the ADA we would understand why his dismissal for violating a “court-imposed personal aftercare program” is a violation. I guess they could have reinstated him and then let the Mavericks decided his on-court fate.