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Thread: Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

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    Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

    by Ryan Van Bibber
    May 31, 2012

    Todd Hewitt says Steve Spagnuolo fired him based on age discrimination and said some ugly things in the process, according to a lawsuit filed against the team this week.

    Former St. Louis Rams equipment manager Todd Hewitt is suing the team for age discrimination. Hewitt filed the case this week in the Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis County.

    Hewitt's case goes all the way back to January 7, 2011, when he was fired, after 40 years with the team, by former head coach Steve Spagnuolo. Hewitt served as the team's equipment manager since 1985, and worked for the team for 40 years, spanning homes in Los Angeles and St. Louis.

    In the suit, the plaintiff says that Spagnuolo made statements claiming that Hewitt was "too old for his job" as early as 2009 . According to Hewitt, Spagnuolo used the term "NFL, not for long" to describe the equipment manager's employment situation.

    The suit describes Hewitt's firing, which apparently was conduct consistent with most dismissals. Spagnuolo called him into his office, where former GM Billy Devaney was present, and told him that they "were going in a different direction" and even offered to write a glowing recommendation.

    Hewitt contacted Chip Rosenbloom, son of former owner Georgia Frontiere and Carroll Rosenbloom and still an owner at the time, who told the long-time equipment manager that his firing "shouldn't have happened."

    Age discrimination was common at Rams Park under Spagnuolo and Devaney, according to Hewitt's suit. he claims at least seven other employees over the age of 40 were fired. Those named in the suit (they are not listed as plaintiffs) are: Dan Linza, age 70 (head of security); John Oswald, 52 (vice president of operations); Jim Anderson, 54 (trainer); Ray Ogas, 60 (director of player relations); Pam Benoist, 68 (skybox coordinator); and Bill Stover, 64 (team photographer).

    All were replaced by younger employees, according to the suit.

    Hewitt does not list a specific amount he is seeking for a remedy in the suit. He is seeking to recoup costs and damages associated with his firing.

    Next, we'll see how far this lawsuit proceeds. If it goes to court, Spagnuolo, Devaney and others will likely have to testify. It could be another undesirable sideshow for the St. Louis Rams, who are in the midst of untangling the damage done by prior administrations and involved in a tense round of stadium lease negotiations.

    I doubt this goes to court. Any thoughts from the "Clan's" legal team?


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    Re: Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

    Im definately not a part of the "legal team" but I know in Missouri employers do not have to give an explanation to employees who are fired.

    So, my guess is unless he can prove he was discriminated against, he should just quit crying and go back home.

    I found it funny that the head of security was 70 years old though.

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    Re: Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

    If true, could Hewitt being told he was too old for his job be problematic?

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    Re: Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

    I find it sad that 52 is considered old.
    "The horror"

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    Re: Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

    AV wanna take care of this one? I doubt he wins any kind of settlement.


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    Re: Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

    Well I don't know how far this lawsuit would go, but Mr. Hewitt certainly has a right to sue if he truly feels he was discriminated against. I know if I had a wiseass little boss who told me things like "heh heh Not For Long heh heh you're too old" before firing me, I would feel discrimination.

    I find it fascinating how some Rams fans still hold Spags in high regard given stories like these. "Good man, not head coach material". Well in my opinion, he seems as lousy as a person as he was a head coach. Two-faced people are the worst. Maybe if that waesel focused more on winning games then micro-managing everything at Rams park, he'd still be making head coach money. I bet you the Monday morning he was fired, he was preparing another round of personnel layoffs at Rams park.

    I know, I know, I'm just REALLY happy that the guy is gone.
    THOLTFAN81 likes this.


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    Re: Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

    Well... you asked for it...

    In a claim of employment discrimination, the burden of proof is generally on the plaintiff. The initial burden is to make out a prima facie case of disparate treatment due to the plaintiff's membership in a protected category (i.e. age).

    This can be done in one of two ways. In most cases, the proof is circumstantial. The employee must show that he/she was (1) a member of a protected category, (2) qualified for his/her job, (3) subjected to an adverse employment action (i.e. discharge), and (4) either replaced by someone outside his/her protected category, or treated less favorably than a person outside his protected category.

    In response to that showing, the employer must articulate a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the discharge. The employer need not show that their decision was right, fair, sensible or prudent - only that there was a reason other than discrimination.

    Once the employer has articulated its justification, the employee must prove that the reason offered is pretextual, meaning that it is false. If the employee can do so, a jury can infer that the reason was discrimination.

    A less common type of case is called a "direct evidence" case. In such a case, the employee alleges that the employer's decisionmaker made a comment in the context of the challenged decision that unmistakably shows a discriminatory motivation. If an employee shows that there is direct evidence, the employer can assert and present evidence showing that it would have made the same decision absent the discriminatory motive.

    Hewitt is clearly trying to frame this as a direct evidence case by asserting that Spagunolo said he was "too old for the job." Even if this claim is to be believed, the Rams' counsel will look into when this alleged statement was made and in what context, and consider whether Spagnuolo was the decisionmaker with respect to Hewitt's termination. They will also (whether the case is viewed as a direct evidence or circumstantial claim) present evidence of their nondiscriminatory reasons for firing Hewitt.

    Cases of this type more often than not end either with a dismissal (through what is called summary judgment) or a settlement. Very few make it to trial.

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    Re: Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

    Festus, your comment strikes me as pretty insensitive. You are a very young man (bless you) and i am not sure that you have any kind of perspective on what it means to work for an employer for 40 years and then be summarily fired. Sure, the burden of proof is on hewitt to show discrimination. But as an experienced attorney that deals with this type of thing from time to time in our portfolio companies, i can tell you that the pattern of employees over 40 terminated and replaced with those under 40 (or at least younger) should certainly be something that raises the suspicion level and provides some degree of circumstantial evidence. If hewitt can get to a jury (and these cases usually settle), his credibility vs that of spags will be critical, because if he convinces a jury that he is telling the truth and spags made any kind of age related comment to him as it relates to his job performance, that fact, plus the pattern of other firings, is going to be harmful to the Rams. Of course, what we dont have, is access to Hewitt's personnel file. Was he warned about performance issues in the past? We have no way to know that.


    As a technical matter, you dont have to give someone a reason for why you are firing them. But its illegal to fire them for a discriminatory purpose. Thus, the rams will have to explain why they fired him. Many times employers simply "eliminate the position" because this is the easiest way to handle it, but when you fire a guy and then replace him with a younger guy, you are sure going to have to explain why if there is a complaint.

    Anyone think its easy to find another job at Hewitt's age at the same level he was at? Of course not.

    That doesnt mean that i am taking Hewitt's side. I am open minded. I am just pointing out that prove it or just go home in light of some of the allegations sounds insensitive to me, especially as it relates to a guy that gave 40 years to the Rams and whose father worked for the Rams for countless years before that. Spags was with the rams two years, this guy was with the rams for 40! How do you think you would feel if this happened to you or someone close to you? When he just "packs up his bags and goes home" how exactly does he pay for his kids to go to college.

    As with most of these cases, the EPLI insurance carrier will have a big say in how it works itself out. My guess is that this will be settled out of court and the carrier will pay up.

    ramming speed to all

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    Re: Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

    As with most of these cases, the EPLI insurance carrier will have a big say in how it works itself out. My guess is that this will be settled out of court and the carrier will pay up.
    Most likely after discovery and a motion for summary judgement. If the motion is denied, I assume that they would then settle rather than risk an embarassing trial.

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    Re: Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

    One of the issues here is that the rams would strongly prefer to avoid the publicity, whereas the insurance carrier couldnt care less about that. Its an ongoing battle between an insurance company and the insured in a matter like this. Keep in mind that if the plaintiff prevails at summary judgment, the settlement price typically goes way up. Thus, sometimes the carrier will settle earlier when the facts are bad if the demands are reasonable. If the plaintiff wants too much money, the carrier will fight it out for a while.

    ramming speed to all

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    Re: Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

    Quote Originally Posted by general counsel View Post
    Festus, your comment strikes me as pretty insensitive. You are a very young man (bless you) and i am not sure that you have any kind of perspective on what it means to work for an employer for 40 years and then be summarily fired. Sure, the burden of proof is on hewitt to show discrimination. But as an experienced attorney that deals with this type of thing from time to time in our portfolio companies, i can tell you that the pattern of employees over 40 terminated and replaced with those under 40 (or at least younger) should certainly be something that raises the suspicion level and provides some degree of circumstantial evidence. If hewitt can get to a jury (and these cases usually settle), his credibility vs that of spags will be critical, because if he convinces a jury that he is telling the truth and spags made any kind of age related comment to him as it relates to his job performance, that fact, plus the pattern of other firings, is going to be harmful to the Rams. Of course, what we dont have, is access to Hewitt's personnel file. Was he warned about performance issues in the past? We have no way to know that.


    As a technical matter, you dont have to give someone a reason for why you are firing them. But its illegal to fire them for a discriminatory purpose. Thus, the rams will have to explain why they fired him. Many times employers simply "eliminate the position" because this is the easiest way to handle it, but when you fire a guy and then replace him with a younger guy, you are sure going to have to explain why if there is a complaint.

    Anyone think its easy to find another job at Hewitt's age at the same level he was at? Of course not.

    That doesnt mean that i am taking Hewitt's side. I am open minded. I am just pointing out that prove it or just go home in light of some of the allegations sounds insensitive to me, especially as it relates to a guy that gave 40 years to the Rams and whose father worked for the Rams for countless years before that. Spags was with the rams two years, this guy was with the rams for 40! How do you think you would feel if this happened to you or someone close to you? When he just "packs up his bags and goes home" how exactly does he pay for his kids to go to college.

    As with most of these cases, the EPLI insurance carrier will have a big say in how it works itself out. My guess is that this will be settled out of court and the carrier will pay up.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel
    Maybe I am being insensitive but this is the same guy who said he wishes the Rams would lose all 16 games and who has made a very nice life im sure managing equipment for a pro team. A job that was apparently handed to him. The thing is the man responsible for his firing isnt even here anymore

    I really did feel bad for him when i first heard the story but when i watched an interview where he said he wished theyd lose every game it sounded really immature and annoyed me. I understand e may have lost his job unexpectedly but such is life in NFL with regims changes.

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    Re: Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

    Separating the St. Louis Rams' firing this week of equipment manager Todd Hewitt from routine dismissals is his 44-year tenure going back two generations.

    The Rams gave no reason for terminating Hewitt, 55, who began working for the Rams as his father's assistant in 1967. Assistant strength coach Chuck Faucette was also let go.

    "We have decided not to retain Todd Hewitt and Chuck Faucette going forward in 2011. We appreciate their efforts in the past and wish them well in the future," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said in a statement.

    The dismissal drew this response from St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz:

    "I'm sorry to learn that the Rams have fired their longtime equipment manager Todd Hewitt. There doesn't seem to be any justification for this. I also know that 99% of the team's fans don't care about who is in charge of the equipment. But the Hewitt family had a strong, proud and loyal tradition of serving the franchise. Todd had been with the Rams for more than 40 years. His father, the late and beloved Don Hewitt, was the team's equipment manager from 1967 through 1994. I don't understand why such a good man and a loyal employee has to be treated so shabbily."
    I remember when this went down and I thought, doesn't Spags and Billy have other more important moves to make. To come in and let go an employee that has 44-year tenure going back two generations... what impact could this have on winning games. None as we continued to lose.

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    Re: Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

    Quote Originally Posted by general counsel View Post
    Festus, your comment strikes me as pretty insensitive. You are a very young man (bless you) and i am not sure that you have any kind of perspective on what it means to work for an employer for 40 years and then be summarily fired.
    I can understand why he would be upset--bitter even--but everything we've been hearing out of him makes it sound like he and Spags really rubbed each other the wrong way. He has made numerous other claims about Spags being a dictatorial micro-manager who was always criticizing how he did things and warned Hewitt about talking back to him. His previous claims make it sound like they had a pretty dysfunctional working relationship (regardless of who was at fault), which isn't going to help his legal argument that he was fired solely because a 51 year old Steve Spagnuolo thought the 52 year old Hewitt was too old for his job.

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    Re: Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

    Quote Originally Posted by general counsel View Post
    One of the issues here is that the rams would strongly prefer to avoid the publicity, whereas the insurance carrier couldnt care less about that. Its an ongoing battle between an insurance company and the insured in a matter like this. Keep in mind that if the plaintiff prevails at summary judgment, the settlement price typically goes way up. Thus, sometimes the carrier will settle earlier when the facts are bad if the demands are reasonable. If the plaintiff wants too much money, the carrier will fight it out for a while.

    ramming speed to all

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    Calculated risk with summary judgment. The closer you push something to trial, the higher the price goes too. Losing a MSJ isn't a death blow, it doesn't push the price that much higher, it's just another step towards trial, which is what pushes it up. Frankly I'd be surprised if they didn't file one eventually unless the facts are bad.

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    Re: Todd Hewitt Suing the Rams .. (Blog)

    Hewitt's "curse" is indicitive of the dark personality this man must have exibited. Talk about removing a "cancer" from the clubhouse.
    "The horror"

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