By David D. Dodge
With the support and oversight of the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks have taken vigorous steps to address misconduct in the Mavs’ front office dating back nearly two decades. The corrosive culture in the Mavs’ organization was first reported in a Sports Illustrated article which described “a corporate culture rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior.” The main offenders named in the SI story were the team’s former president, former head of HR, and the Mavs.com beat writer.
Within days of the article’s publication on instances of sexual harassment and other improper workplace conduct at the Mavericks’ organization, the Mavs engaged the New York-based law firm, Krutoy Law, P.C. to conduct an independent investigation into these allegations and any other allegations of serious workplace misconduct that the firm might uncover.
The firm’s 43-page report has now been released. Throughout the investigation, the law firm was in regular communication with the NBA and its outside counsel retained to lead the NBA’s oversight function. Near the end of the investigation, the law firm representatives met with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to discuss the firm’s findings. Silver said in a statement, “the findings of the independent investigation are disturbing and heartbreaking and no employee in the NBA or any workplace for that matter, should be subject to the type of working environment described in the report.”
The report contained 13 recommendations for changes to the Mavericks’ organization. Some of the key recommendations (underlined) and steps already taken by the Mavs are included below:
- Increase the number of women throughout the organization including in leadership and supervisory positions. A new female CEO and President has been hired along with two other women in senior executive positions including a new head of HR and a new chief ethics and compliance officer. This new compliance officer position is believed to be one of the very few compliance officer positions established by a major professional sports team in the U.S.
- Improve formal harassment reporting processes and create new paths for victims to report misconduct. There is now an “Ethics Line” (hotline) staffed by a third-party company that allows employees to report their concerns while maintaining their anonymity.
- Conduct anonymous workplace culture and sexual harassment climate surveys on a regular basis.
- Strengthen and expand HR, and implement clear protocols and processes for evaluating workplace misconduct issues. The Mavs have already improved their employee training programs, including regular sessions on the employer’s policies and reporting systems. Moreover, the Mavericks have created a new Code of Conduct modeled in part on the NBA’s 2018 Code of Conduct.
- Provide “prompt and proportionate” and “consistent” discipline across the organization when harassment or misconduct has been substantiated. Under the new Code of Conduct, the Senior VP of HR and the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer are charged with investigating all claims of misconduct and taking appropriate disciplinary measures.
- Provide regular training for all employees on sexual harassment (including bystander intervention training) and special training directed at managers and supervisors. The Company has begun to beef-up its employee training including training for the leadership team about issues of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
- Employ a full-time, in-house General Counsel. Effective July 9, 2018 the Mavs have employed a full-time General Counsel.
If the NBA and the Dallas Mavericks had set out to develop a model compliance program, they could not have gotten off to a better start. The Mavs have conducted a risk assessment (the Krutoy study), hired a professional, experienced ethics and compliance officer, created a new Code of Conduct, established and expanded their training program, and created policies and procedure for investigating, evaluating, and adjudicating workplace misconduct issues. Overall, HR resources have also been strengthened and expanded.
If the Mavericks program continues to get the backing of its owner and top management, it has the potential to evolve into an effective compliance program that will surely capture the attention of not only the other NBA teams, but the clubs of the NFL, MLB, and the NHL as well.