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A newly fired employee of the Chicago Blackhawks is taking legal action on team


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Joshua
June 17, 2024  (6:30)
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Anthony Filomena
Photo credit: Anthony Filomena

According to Anthony Filomena, the Chicago Blackhawks have retaliated against him recently, after his article appeared in Outsports.com

The article detailed the former Blackhawks PR Professional's relationship to hockey and how Pride night allowed him to re-connect to the sport.
Filomena felt the article painted a great picture of the team's outreach to the LGBT community and deepen their relationship with the community.
Soon after, he was let go by the team.
Sounds contradictory to what the team has stated about the change in culture from Danny Wirtz and GM Kyle Davidson.
As a result, he alleges that the team engaged in discrimination:
Now Filomena alleges he was fired as the result of «possible sexual orientation discrimination» shortly after the Outsports article and has retained an attorney for possible legal action.

To which the Blackhawks state the firing was due to insubordination and was a result of Filomena's failure to follow policies:
«a complete disregard to our policies, procedures, and clearly-documented expectations.» They say his being gay had nothing to do with his firing.

When the Blackhawks were asked if his being gay was a reason the team terminated his employment, he felt they didn't state it outright, but the timing of his firing felt the dismissal led him to the accusation.
The Blackhawks' rebuttal to OutSports denying Filomena was sent soon after:
«The Chicago Blackhawks would not terminate an employee because of their sexual orientation,» Blackhawks communications manager Ben Fromstein said in an email response from the team to Outsports. «In fact, prior to the issues noted below, the organization featured Mr. Filomena and a number of other employees during last year's Pride Month on our LinkedIn channel. His public accusations are insulting to the organization and the many employees, including several in senior leadership, who identify as LGBTQ+ and contribute to the Blackhawks and our sport every day.»

Neither side disagree about the date of the dismissal, which happened short after the April 29th article was published.
He asked Outsports to hold out publishing the article, until he received the okay from leadership within the organization to publish it. He would discuss the story with Lyndsey Stoope about approving the from "Senior Leadership", he wouldn't hear back for a week as Stoope went on vacation.
Filomena discussed the article with Chairman Danny Wirtz, and Filomena wanted to set up an interview with Wirtz and Outsports to discuss the teams LGBT outreach.
«I wanted to talk about so much of our great initiatives and what we're doing behind the scenes that people don't know,» Filomena said. «But I didn't feel like I'm the best person to talk about that. Sure, I'm their gay publicist, and it does make sense for me to tout that. But it's so much more powerful if people read it on your [website] and it comes from Danny Wirtz.»

It was approved by Wirtz apparently and Filomena would follow-up with Wirtz to get an interview scheduled.
Stoope had returned from Vacation and then discovered Outsports ran Filomena's coming out story.
When Filomena showed up to the office at the end of the week, he experienced avoidance from co-workers and would be summoned to a meeting with the team HR by VP of Marketing and Communication Jerry Ferguson.
«I sit down and Jerry's like, ‘Anthony, this is your last day with the Blackhawks,» he remembered. «And I just looked at them and I said, ‘You guys have got to be kidding me.' And I started crying.»

Filomena would castigate the Blackhawks on social media, while his attorney would send a letter to the team. The letter details allegations of what Filomena says was discrimination by the Blackhawks.
The letter by attorney Josh Friedman, provided to Outsports, details several points of contention between Filomena and his immediate supervisors surrounding promotion events. It also alleges the Outsports article was the trigger for his firing.

«The final straw here was the Outsports article,» the letter says. «Although the team's prior VP of marketing was very supportive of Mr. Filomena's sexual orientation and his outreach to the LGBTQ community, it appears that [vice president of marketing Jerry] Ferguson and Stroope were not supportive of him or his work, and his termination almost immediately after the appearance of the article (even though he had prior approval for it from Wirtz) suggests possible sexual orientation discrimination was behind Mr. Filomena's discharge.

«As a result of the above, Mr. Filomena has been financially and emotionally devastated, his career path has been seriously impaired, and his lifelong love of the team has been shattered. Accordingly, he has retained me to look into this matter and advise him on the appropriate course of action. In order to conduct my investigation, I request that you instruct the team to immediately preserve all records (both electronic and print) related in any way to Mr. Filomena's employment and his termination, and to suspend any and all record destruction efforts that may result in the destruction of any records related to these matters.»

The Blackhawks dispute the disagreement and explained that Filomena failed to follow the proper chain of command for the interview, before going over the heads of his supervisors.
«While we were appreciative of the opportunity to highlight the organization's support of the LGBTQ+ community,» the Blackhawks' statement said, «we told Mr. Filomena that the opportunity would be considered, and elevated for additional approval, which was required because of the following:

«Select subject matter included Blackhawks projects and initiatives; Mr. Filomena was not responsible for the Pride Night event nor did he oversee the organization's LGBTQ+ community partnerships.

«Any employees below the VP level, regardless of department, are not spokespeople for the organization without multiple approvals such as their manager, department head and leaders who oversee specific initiatives, among others.

«When his manager left the country for PTO on April 19th, mutual understanding between Mr. Filomena and his manager was that the interview request was pending and would be discussed further upon her return on May 1. The organization was unaware that this interview had been completed until seeing the article had been published on April 29. During that time, Mr. Filomena texted Mr. Wirtz regarding a future opportunity for Mr. Wirtz to be featured in Outsports, to which Mr. Wirtz gladly agreed. Mr. Filomena was not seeking approval from Mr. Wirtz on the interview opportunity detailed above.»

The team also contends that Filomena was «terminated for cause due to multiple ongoing violations of the company's policies, procedures and the employee handbook over a period of six months, including violation of attendance policy and insubordination. He received multiple written communications outlining expectations including a formal, final written warning prior to his dismissal (and for clarity: all delivered prior to Mr. Filomena introducing the Outsports media opportunity).»

Filomena's lawyer, Friedman, said the charge of violating policies and insubordination are not true.

«With respect to the contention that Mr. Filomena had ongoing attendance issues, he assures me that there were no assigned hours for him (or other salaried employees) and that it was not uncommon for employees not to be at their desk from 9-5, as salaried employees had approval to work from home, to leave the office for meetings, or to be away for other reasons as long as they got their work done — which Mr. Filomena did,» Friedman's letter says. «With respect to his alleged insubordination, what I understand happened here is that Mr. Filomena raised a concern within the organization about what he believed may have been a violation of NHL policy by Mr. Ferguson.»

During the termination Filomena was apparently under final warning from the team. He would refuse to sign the warning, as he felt the details were inaccurate.
«I said, ‘To me, I wasn't. Because you told me I didn't have to sign it and I wrote on there that it was inaccurate. And then you told me there was going to be a follow-up and I never heard from you again.'»

Filomena asked the executives to give him a reason why they were letting him go. He said each person had a different story. When he asked to see the document of dismissal, they told him it wasn't ready.

He also alleges that team management told him that he shouldn't have done the Outsports profile without the approval of senior leadership. When Filomena pressed his case that he got Wirtz's approval, Filomena said vice president and general counsel Marcus LeBeouf replied, «Well, Danny can't really be approving these things.»

Filomena said he was aghast.

«I'm like, ‘What?! He owns this team!'»

According to Filomena, the team was upset with how the Kyle Beach incident was handled in the article.
Which had caused Filomena to grow even angrier:
«And I'm like, ‘The whole world knows!'You know what I said about that? Yeah, if someone gets sexually assaulted, they should talk about it. Because I've been sexually assaulted too,» he replied.

Filomena has lost his dream job with the Blackhawks and will have to piece it all back together again. His dream is in shambles.
«I can vet media opportunities for Danny Wirtz or Jaime Faulkner, by myself but I can't do it for my own self? Do you think I'm publicly going to go on record talking [trash] about this place when I know all the drama? And again, this article made [the Blackhawks] look great.»

He didn't notice the toll that his job had taken on him until after he was let go.

«You're going like clockwork. You're working 60-hour weeks. You're working game nights, weekends, it's just like a cycle,» he said. «Looking back and now that I've been talking about it for two weeks, I'm like, ‘Yeah, it was [messed] up.' But these are all things that add up over time. It's two years of drama and trauma.»

Source: Outsports
A gay manager was fired by the Chicago Blackhawks after an Outsports article. He says it was homophobia. The team says it was not.
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A newly fired employee of the Chicago Blackhawks is taking legal action on team

Did Anthony Filomena experience wrongful termination?

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