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Christina Scavo and Shannon O’Toole, a pair of licensed massage therapists from New York, sued former New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre today along with the Jets corporate parent, and Lisa Ripi, a woman who apparently coordinated the work of several massage therapists for the team.Scavo and O’Toole’s lawsuit accuse the defendants of violating New York State and municipal human rights laws.
The core accusation against Favre is that sometime during the Jets 2008 training camp, he sent Scavo and another, unidentified massage therapist text messages that indicated he wanted to “get together” with Scavo. According to one alleged message, Favre wrote, “I guess I have bad intentions.”
According to the lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, after Scavo brought Favre’s messages to her husband’s attention, he contacted Favre “and requested that he stop soliciting his wife.” Favre “responded in an inappropriate manner and refused to apologise or take any other action.”
“Shortly thereafter,” the lawsuit contends, “Scavo and Shannon O’Toole were never again called to provide massage therapy for the Jets.” The lawsuit does not directly accuse Favre of soliciting or having any inappropriate contact with O’Toole, who also worked as massage therapist for the Jets, but according to the lawsuit’s second cause of action, “O’Toole was terminated because she had been associated with plaintiff Scavo and brought Scavo into the Jets organisation as a massage therapist.”
The lawsuit’s first cause of action charges Favre with violating §296 of New York State’s Human Rights Law, which generally outlaws “because of the …sex… of any individual to discriminate against such individual in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment.” New York State interprets “sexual harassment” — i.e., subjecting a person to a “hostile work environment because of gender” — as a type of discrimination outlawed by this provision.
The Human Rights Law further prohibits employers from “retaliating” or “discriminating” against any person who complains about a violation. This is the basis for Scavo and O’Toole’s allegation that they were “no longer called upon to provide massage therapy at the Jets training camp.” The lawsuit alleges Favre engaged in this illegal retaliation, even though he was not the employer and the lawsuit does not allege any direct act taken by Favre to terminate Scavo and O’Toole’s relationship with the Jets.
However, the lawsuit does accuse Lisa Ripi — described as the “go-to person” for massage therapists who worked for the Jets — of contacting Scavo after a Deadspin report last October said two anonymous massage therapists (Scavo and O’Toole) had received unwanted text messages from Favre.
According to the lawsuit, Ripi sent a text message to Scavo that said she and her husband were wrong to directly confront Favre and that the matter should have been “handled internally.” In another alleged message, Ripi admitted to Scavo that Favre “was wrong on all counts.” The lawsuit also claims there were several phone calls to O’Toole, presumably after Favre’s alleged incident with Scavo, where Ripi directly threatened O’Toole that she and Scavo would “never work for the Jets again.”
The lawsuit claims the Jets and Ripi are liable under New York Human Rights Law because Scavo and O’Toole “were discriminated against…and the Jets refused to take any action to permit plaintiffs to work as massage therapists as they had in the past before the incident with the defendant Favre.”
The timing of the lawsuit coincides with the National Football League’s recent decision to fine Favre $50,000 for his refusal to cooperate with an internal investigation into allegations that Favre attempted to solicit another former Jets employee, Jenn Sterger, by sending her pictures of his genitalia.
The Scavo-O’Toole lawsuit references these allegations and the NFL investigation in several places. Although the NFL is not named as a defendant, the lawsuit says Scavo and O’Toole “refrained from filing suit in the misguided hope that that the NFL would take some meaningful action” against Favre over the Strerger allegations. Instead, the lawsuit laments, “The NFL imposed what is a relatively meaningless fine of $50,000 after probably spending a hundred times that amount on its alleged investigation.”
The lawsuit also cites media depictions of the Jets locker room and training camp “as a hot bed of sexual harassment, sexism and inappropriate behaviour,” citing the Sterger allegations as well as an incident that took place in 2010 — long after Scavo, O’Toole, and Favre ceased working for the Jets — involving Jets personnel and a television reporter. The lawsuit further cites as evidence of a hostile work environment the fact that the Jets employ “scantily clad sexually provocative cheerleaders” and produce a swimsuit calendar that features women who “are clearly not football players.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. A copy of the lawsuit is available at this link
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