Inappropriate language was a critical factor in the decision by the Boston Celtics to suspend head coach Ime Udoka, according to a new report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. An investigation conducted by a private legal firm found that crude language Udoka used in talking with a female co-worker “significantly factored” into the decision to suspend the coach.
ESPN stated the firm found Udoka’s language “especially concerning coming from a workplace superior,” and was the major policy violation uncovered by the outside counsel. Importantly, Wojnarowski’s report makes no mention of any legal repercussions or allegations of harassment at the time of this writing.
According to current Massachusetts employment laws, if the female subordinate deemed the dialogue either unwelcome or unsafe, this could be considered workplace harassment, even if she and Udoka ultimately engaged in a consensual relationship.
— The Celtics Wire (@TheCelticsWire) September 30, 2022
Boston’s own employee handbook could have similar language, but Massachusetts legal definitions are paramount in this situation regardless.
Sexual harassment is sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: a) submission or rejection thereof become the basis for employment decisions or a term or condition of employment. (Quid pro quo) or b) it has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment. (Hostile work environment)
Non MA specific definition: Verbal sexual harassment includes innuendoes, suggestive comments, jokes of a sexual nature, sexual propositions, lewd remarks and threats; requests for any type of sexual favor (this includes repeated, unwelcome requests for dates); and verbal abuse or “kidding” that is oriented toward a prohibitive form of harassment, including that which is sexual in nature and unwelcome.
It’s likely more details about the case will emerge in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, interim head coach Joe Mazzulla is set to lead the Celtics to the club’s first preseason game this Sunday.
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