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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
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Appellate Slam Dunk for UConn Basketball Coach

(CN) - The head coach of the U.S. women's basketball team at the 2012 London Olympics need not face claims by the NBA security director who allegedly spurned his romantic advances.

The ruling for coach Geno Auriemma came down Tuesday just hours before he led the University of Connecticut women's basketball team to its ninth national title.

Kelley D.F. Hardwick, who began working in the NBA's security department in 2002 and now works as a director, had claimed that Auriemma accosted her during a 2009 trip to Russia by the USA Women's Basketball Team.

She said the coach first made inappropriate remarks in a hotel lounge and then followed her to her room.

Hardwick had allegedly been expected to provide security for the national women's team at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, but, after she rebuffed Auriemma's advances, he told James Tooley, an executive with the national basketball team's governing body, that he did not want Hardwick to attend, according to the complaint.

Although she ultimately made the trip, Hardwick claimed in a 2012 complaint that her responsibilities were greatly diminished and that, among other things, she was denied a security credential that she needed to enter the basketball arena.

In addition to Auriemma, Hardwick had also sued the National Basketball Association and USA Basketball Inc., which oversees the U.S. national men's and women's basketball teams.

Tooley became a defendant in an amended complaint, as did James Cawley, Hardwick's supervisor with the NBA, who allegedly carried out Auriemma's orders to curtail her responsibilitie.

The New York County Supreme Court dismissed the claims against USA Basketball, Tooley and Auriemma last year, and the Appellate Division's First Department was unanimous in affirming Tuesday.

Hardwick had alleged discrimination under New York law and the New York City Human Rights Laws, but neither applies because the alleged misconduct occurred in Russia, according to the ruling.

Hardwick lives in New York, but outside the city, though her employer, the NBA, is based there. Both USA Basketball and Tooley meanwhile are based in Colorado, and Auriemma resides in Connecticut.

"Plaintiff contends that the decision to reassign her and later reduce her responsibilities took place within the city boundaries and, therefore, her place of employment is where the impact of the alleged discriminatory acts occurred," the unsigned decision states. "However, it is the place where the impact of the alleged discriminatory conduct is felt that controls whether the Human Rights Laws apply, not where the decision is made."

The justices also noted that Hardwick "makes no claim that the alleged retaliatory acts, including the reduction in her duties at the London Olympics, have had any impact on the terms, conditions or extent of her employment with the NBA within the boundaries of New York."

Indeed, there is no evidence that her job with the NBA has been negatively affected, the court found.

"Even if the decision to modify her assignment was made within the City's boundaries, the discriminatory acts alleged did not occur within the City or State of New York, but in London where she claims she was relegated to inferior tasks not commensurate with her usual assignments," the decision states.

Hardwick also failed to revive separate tort claims against Auriemma and Tooley based on their alleged agreement to "aid and abet" each other in discriminating against her. As the court noted, an individual cannot aid and abet his or her own violation of the law, the court found. In any event, the tort claim is "blurred and indistinguishable" from the untenable civil rights claims, according to the ruling.

Hardwick abandoned her assault claim meanwhile by not challenging its dismissal in her appellate brief, the court noted.

The appellate panel consisted of Justices Angela Mazzarelli, Richard Andrias, Leland DeGrasse, Helen Freedman and Judith Gische.

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