As Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow portends six more weeks of winter, a quote from a lawyer in the aftermath of a high-profile termination means that a storm of litigation is brewing.
The first comment from former FOX Sports Clumsy Fancy Title Big Shot Jamie Horowitz comes not from Horowitz but from the person who has been hired to speak on his behalf in court, eventually.
“The way he has been treated by FOX is appalling,” attorney Patricia Glaser told Richard Deitsch of SI.com. “At no point in his tenure was there any mention by his superiors or by human resources of any misconduct or an inability to adhere to professional conduct. Jamie was hired by Fox to do a job — a job that, until today, he has performed in an exemplary fashion. Any slanderous accusations to the contrary will be vigorously defended.”
The presence of the word “slanderous” hints strongly at one the First Cause of Action from Horowitz v. FOX: Defamation of Character. Horowitz also could claim that his contract was violated, if FOX refuses to make any further payment based on a firing “for cause.”
It’s unclear how or when the reported sexual harassment probe of Horowitz began. An unnamed FOX production employee told Deitsch that she spoke with FOX Sports human resources officials for more than an hour last week. (It would be very interesting to know whether the unnamed employee reached out to Deitsch on her own, or whether FOX initiated and/or arranged the leak.) The unnamed production employee claims that Horowitz tried to kiss her last year.
“I have been working in sports for a long time, and no one has ever been that bold with me,” the unnamed production employee told Deitsch. “I saw him at FOX one day, and he said he wanted to catch up. He said we could meet up to talk. The hook was that he could get me more work. FOX H.R. called me last week. They asked about what had happened. I gave some details and then called back and gave more details. To FOX’s credit they handled it quickly and really proactive. They went out of their way to contact me.”
It’s arguably implied in the quote that the unnamed source, who apparently worked elsewhere with Horowitz or otherwise knew him in some capacity, made a report of alleged harassment. It’s also possible that her name came up as part of an investigation that someone else had initiated.
The deeper question is whether the firing has any connection to Horowitz’s much-criticized decision to shut down all written online content at FOXSports.com. The dramatic step may have prompted someone who may have otherwise never complained about Horowitz to file a report. Alternatively, FOX may have opted to seize on the sexual harassment situation as a pretext for dumping Horowitz and not paying him.
What happens next could shed light on whether the sexual harassment situation was coincidental to Horowitz’s high-profile power play from a week ago. If, for example, written content suddenly reappears at FOXSports.com, it could be that the powers-that-be wanted to get rid of Horowitz due to his business judgment, and that they wanted to gin up a reason for firing him “for cause” and cutting off his pay.