NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Ivy League-educated former head of New York Mets ticket sales sued the club Wednesday, saying she was fired last month after insults and humiliation were hurled at her by the club owner's son, a top team executive who she claimed was upset that she had a child without being married.
Leigh Castergine's Brooklyn federal court lawsuit named Sterling Mets Front Office LLC and Jeffrey Wilpon, the club's chief operating officer, as defendants. It sought unspecified damages and asked that the Mets be stopped from future discrimination.
"We have received and reviewed the complaint. The claims are without merit," the Mets said in a statement. "Our organization maintains strong policies against any and all forms of discrimination."
The lawsuit said the club recognized and rewarded Castergine after she was hired in December 2010 as vice president of ticket sales and service to modernize the Mets ticket sales until she learned she was pregnant in August 2013.
According to the lawsuit, Wilpon "became fixated on the idea that Castergine would have a child without being married. He frequently humiliated Castergine in front of others by, among other things, pretending to see if she had an engagement ring on her finger and openly stating in a meeting of the team's all-male senior executives that he is 'morally opposed' to Castergine 'having this baby without being married,'" the lawsuit said. It added that no one, including the team's general counsel, challenged Wilpon's statement.
The lawsuit said Wilpon also told Castergine, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, that she would make more money and get a bigger bonus once she was married. Then, it said, he told her "something had changed" after the birth of her child and that she was no longer as "aggressive" as she used to be.
After she complained to the team's human resources department, she was fired on Aug. 26, the lawsuit said.
In the lawsuit, Castergine's lawyers described how the one-time $6-an-hour ticket agent for the Philadelphia 76ers gained experience in more senior jobs with the Philadelphia Flyers, Orlando Magic and the Boston Bruins before joining the Mets organization.
The court papers said she introduced major pricing changes, new benefits and a flexible exchange policy for season ticket holders, earning two $50,000 raises, annual six-figure bonuses and a promotion to senior vice president. One industry publication even described her as "the next female president in the sports industry," the lawsuit said.
But the goodwill soured with the announcement of her pregnancy, the lawsuit said. Her lawyers wrote that she became uneasy even before the announcement, when she attended a meeting of team executives in which one executive described how a female employee in the club's public relations department "hasn't been the same since she had children" and might need to be moved to a different department.
Days later, she revealed her pregnancy and discrimination became apparent soon afterward, the lawsuit said.
Castergine took a shot at the organization as a whole in her lawsuit, stating, "In particular, 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.
"The team's ownership and front office have only made things worse. Some fans had become so disenchanted that they pledged not to attend any games until there was a change in ownership. Others compared Castergine's job to selling 'deck chairs on the Titanic' or 'tickets to a funeral.'"
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