Jeremy Roenick, a nine time NHL All-Star and former NBC analyst, is suing his former employer for wrongful termination. Roenick’s complaint hinges on, “discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation”.
In December of 2019, while appearing on Barstool Sports’ Spittin Chiclets podcast, Roenick made sexual comments about his co-worker Kathryn Tappen and his wife. Roenick referenced a three way he wished would come to fruition between himself, his wife and Tappen. Additionally, he made inappropriate comments about their appearance in swimsuits along with crass remarks about their bodies. Roenick was suspended shortly after his appearance on Spittin Chiclets and was fired from NBC in February of 2020.
Roenick’s suit was filed in New York Supreme Court on Friday against Sam Flood, NBC Sports Group, NBC Sports Network, L.P., NBC Universal Media, LLC, Comcast Corporation and John Does 1-10. (John Does being the fictitious names of parties that are not known). Roenick alleges that he was fired and not given the opportunity to, “cure any material breach of the agreement or any situation involving allegedly immoral action on Roenick’s part.” New York State Courts Electronic Filing Documents [NYSCEF] Doc No. 1, complaint at 6. Roenick and his counsel allege that his termination is, “especially troubling when considered in the context of the treatment of other NBC commentators and personalities.” Id. at 7.
In July 2020, current NBC commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir were a part of a spoof that Roenick and his counsel allege was vulgar towards “a woman’s groin and joked about a sexual affair.” Id. Roenick’s complaint also addresses that he previously asked executive producer and president Sam Flood about Weir’s alleged sexual comments during the 2018 Olympic games towards figure skaters and was told that “he is gay and can say whatever.” Id. Roenick also alleges that his outspoken support of President Donald Trump “directly caused and contributed to [his] suspension and termination [which would be] a violation of New York Labor Law § 201-D.” Id. at 25. Roenick is seeking Direct/Compensatory Damages, Consequential Damages, Economic Damages, Non-Economic Damages, Punitive Damages and Attorneys’ Fees. Id. at 7-8.
Roenick brought twelve causes of action in his Complaint. They are as follows: Breach of Contract, Breach of Express Oral Contract Not to Terminate/Constructively Terminate Employment Without Good Cause, Breach of Implied-in-Fact Contract Not to Terminate/Constructively Terminate Employment Without Good Cause, Violation of New York State Human Rights Law For Sex and Sexual Orientation Discrimination, Violation of New York City Human Rights Law For Gender and Sexual Orientation Discrimination/Disparate Treatment, Violation of New York State Human Rights Law For Hostile Work Environment, Violation of the New York City Human Rights Law for Hostile Work Environment, Violation of New York State Human Rights Law Retaliation for Opposing Discrimination and Harassment Based on Sex and Sexual Orientation, Violation of New York City Human Rights Law Retaliation for Opposing Harassment and Discrimination Based on Gender and Sexual Orientation, Two separate causes for Violation of New York State Human Rights Law For Aiding, Abetting, Inciting, Compelling and/or Coercing Forbidden Acts and Interfering with Protected Rights and Violation of New York Labor Law § 201-D Discrimination For Engagement in Political Activities. Id. at 9-24.
Roenick claims he was not given the adequate opportunity to cure his alleged material breach, which he believes goes against his contract with NBC. Id. at 9. Roenick also claims that he was terminated without good cause, which would violate his contract. Id. at 11. Roenick asserts that he was reassured of his job security with NBC and that the two parties were discussing an extension weeks before his appearance on Spittin Chiclets. Id. at 12.
The complaint heavily relies on executive state laws and codes throughout. Roenick states “The New York Executive Law §296(1)(a) provides that, ‘It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice: (a) For an employer or licensed agency, because of the age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, marital status, or domestic violence victim status, to refuse or hire or employ or to bar or to discharge from employment such individual in compensation or in terms, condition or privileges of employment.’” Id. at 13. Roenick declares that he is in a protected class and because Weir was not disciplined for his aforementioned alleged comments; Roenick believes he was unfairly discriminated against based on his sexual orientation. Id. Roenick advances his point by stating that, “The New York City Administrative Code §8-107(1) provides that, ‘it shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice: (a) For an employer or an employee or agent thereof, because of the actual or perceived age, race, creed, color, national origin, gender, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or alienage or citizenship status of any person, to refuse to hire or employ or to bar or to discharge from employment such person or to discriminate against such person in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment.’” Id. at 14. Through this cause of action, it appears as if Roenick believes that Weir and Lipinski weren’t reprimanded for their aforementioned actions because of their sex/sexual orientation. Id. at 16. Thus, Roenick seems to believe he was unfairly discriminated against based on his sex.
Roenick states that he suffered from, “adverse employment actions” and that he was harassed and/or subjected to a hostile work environment. Id. at 17. Roenick claims that he was subjected to unlawful employment practices, such as retaliation, reprimanding, harassment and worse treatment than his co-workers based on his sex and/or sexual orientation. Id. at 19-20. Roenick proclaims that defendants Flood and Does 1-10 aided, abetted, incited, compelled and coerced these forbidden acts which would violate N.Y. Exec Law section 296 (6). Id. at 21. Roenick applies this assertion to the New York City Administrative Code §8-107(19). Id. at 23. The Code states that, “It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for any person to coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with, or attempt to coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with, any person in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of such person having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected pursuant to this section.” Id. Lastly, Pursuant to New York Labor Law §201 – D (2), Roenick cites that is “unlawful for any employer or employment agency to refuse to hire, employ or license, or discharge from employment or otherwise discriminate against an individual in compensation, promotion or terms, conditions and privileges of employment because of: (a) an individual’s political activities outside of working hours, off of the employer’s premises and without use of the employer’s equipment or property.” Id. at 24.
Roenick’s complaint has not yet been reviewed and approved by the County Clerk; however, that will likely happen sometime early this week. The Defendants in this case will then have the opportunity to “Answer” Roenick’s complaint and may consider filing a counter-claim or a motion for summary judgment.