OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The former director of community relations for the Golden State Warriors filed suit Wednesday alleging that the basketball team’s star player, Monta Ellis, sexually harassed her, including by sending her a graphic photo of his genitalia.
Erika Ross Smith claims in her lawsuit, which was filed in Alameda County Superior Court, that the Warriors tried to cover up the alleged misconduct by Ellis and retaliated against her on Aug. 5 by laying her off.
Smith’s lawyer, Burton Boltuch, said Smith started working for the Warriors in September 2007 and received positive work reviews, but after she rejected a request by the team in February that she resign and take “a little money,” the team began removing some of her job duties.
The Warriors ultimately told Smith that she was being laid off because her job was being eliminated, according to Boltuch.
Brown filed her suit against the team, Ellis, co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber and general manager Larry Riley.
Boltuch said the suit alleges 14 different legal claims and contains 165 paragraphs that detail the allegations.
Smith, who is single and is in her 30s, told reporters at a news conference in Boltuch’s office that Ellis began texting her in November 2010 but she told him she wasn’t into having a relationship with him because he is married.
Boltuch said Ellis’s texts, which sometimes started with the phrase “Hey Sexy,” weren’t work-related and were sent at odd hours.
He said Smith “was embarrassed and intimidated and felt scared and helpless” because she feared that the team wouldn’t believe her story.
“Mr. Ellis was and is the team’s star and makes $11 million a year, and my client definitely is in the 99 percent,” Boltuch said.
He said Smith “feared she would lose her job, and it’s very apparent that all her fears are justified.”
Boltuch said Smith’s suit seeks recovery of lost income, including back wages and benefits, compensation for severe emotional distress and injunctive relief to order the Warriors to remedy what the suit alleges is illegal conduct.
KCBS’ Bob Butler Reports:
Later Wednesday, the following statement was issued by Warriors President & Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts on behalf of the Warriors:
“The Golden State Warriors take seriously any allegations of harassment. Let me make this extremely clear: The Warriors strive every day to provide a comfortable and professional work environment for all of our employees.
When our new owners arrived in November 2010, we set a path for the organization to be the best in the NBA and an organization we are proud of. We are committed to achieving that goal and we work daily to ensure it happens.
When we were made aware of a consensual relationship between Mr. Ellis and the Plaintiff, we did what an organization should do. We told both to stop – promptly, directly and fairly. The Warriors have never taken any action against the Plaintiff for any inappropriate reason, and we deny the allegations she is making.
We live in a litigious society in which lawsuits too frequently are driven by money and not the pursuit of justice. We will vigorously defend the reputation of the Warriors organization in the courts. We don’t plan to make any further comment about the details of the case.”
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