BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – Mets COO Jeffrey Wilpon fired the team’s first female senior vice president after complaining that people respected her less because of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, she claims today in Federal Court.
Leigh Castergine, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, says she excelled at Sterling Mets Front Office since it hired her in 2010, but that she was treated differently after learning she was pregnant in August 2013.
Wilpon, the son of the team’s principal owner, was particularly abrasive to Castergine, the complaint filed Wednesday states.
After allegedly becoming “fixated on the idea that Castergine would have a child without being married,” Wilpon “frequently humiliated Castergine in front of others,” she claims.
It started with Wilpon publicly checking Castergine’s finger for an engagement ring, according to the complaint, but Castergine says Wilpon humiliated her again in February 2014, about a month before Castergine gave birth, at a meeting with “six other senior executives, all of whom are men, including the team’s general counsel.”
While discussing e-cigarette advertising, Wilpon said, according to the complaint, “I am as morally opposed to putting an e-cigarette sign in my ballpark as I am to Leigh having this baby without being married.”
“No one, including the team’s general counsel, challenged Wilpon’s discriminatory statement,” the complaint continues.
That same month, Wilpon told one of Castergine’s colleagues that “people would respect her [Castergine] more if she was married,” according to the complaint.
Wilpon had previous told Castergine in a December 2013 bonus meeting to “tell her boyfriend that when she gets a ring, she will make more money and get a bigger bonus.”
Castergine says she complained to human resources in late February or early March 2014, and that the office was aware of the discrimination she faced when she returned from maternity leave this past June.
“Shortly thereafter, in or about early August 2014, the Mets for the first time approached Castergine about purported ‘issues’ with her performance,” the complaint states. “These ‘issues’ were, in fact, trumped up.”
“On August 20, 2014, Wilpon fired Castergine,” the complaint continues. “Wilpon’s asserted reason was Castergine’s failure to meet her sales goals. Wilpon expressed his belief that ‘something changed’ with Castergine and that she was no longer ‘as aggressive as she once had been.'”
Castergine says Wilpon’s “discriminatory views” are the true culprit.
She also had tough words for her former employer, noting that “the team’s front office has failed to field a winning team in six years, including 2014, and has made a series of public relations blunders that too frequently led to the franchise being ridiculed in the sports pages.”
“Despite these challenges, the Mets recognized and rewarded Castergine’s accomplishments through annual six-figure bonuses, significant raises and a promotion to the position of senior vice president – the first woman to hold such a position in the team’s fifty-two year history,” the complaint states. “Until, that is, Castergine announced she was pregnant.”
Castergine seeks punitive damages for violations of the Family Medical Leave Act, retaliation and discrimination.
She is represented by Anne Vladeck with Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard in Manhattan.
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