New discrimination claim tries to make tenuous (and inaccurate) link to Brian Gaine’s firing

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Just when it looked like the circumstances surrounding the G.M. vacancy in Houston couldn’t get any more bizarre, the circumstances surrounding the G.M. vacancy in Houston have gotten more bizarre.

The discrimination complaint filed by former Texans coordinator Jeff Pope, coupled with comments from Pope’s lawyer, suggest that the Texans fired former G.M. Brian Gaine because of the discrimination claim.

“When the Texans terminated Mr. Gaine, that caught my attention,” attorney N. Lucy Chukwurah, Pope’s attorney, told the Houston Chronicle. “They terminated him a few days after they spoke with their counsel. I found that to be unusual.”

The Texans have denied that Gaine’s termination had any connection to the discrimination claim. And, frankly, it wouldn’t make sense for the Texans to fire Gaine because of the discrimination claim. Most employers rally around an employee accused of discrimination or other workplace misconduct while legal action is pending, since the ongoing employment relationship tends to ensure that the employee accused of misconduct will fully and completely cooperate with the broader effort to defend against the claims being made.

If anything, firing Gaine increases the likelihood that he won’t cooperate with the team’s lawyers, and that his testimony won’t be as malleable in the team’s favor as it otherwise would be. Although the team could use the provisions of his contract that give him ongoing payment to get him to work with those who will be defending against the discrimination complaint, which may be a precursor to full-blown litigation, these things take time to play out. By the time Gaine would ever take the witness stand, his contract quite possibly will have expired.

While there’s a good chance Gaine’s story will be locked in (via deposition or other sworn statement) before that happens, the lawyers who are trying to beat back discrimination charges prefer the not-so-subtle control of the employee-witness that comes from the ongoing employment relationship. Given the unique nature of the job Gaine held, the Texans wouldn’t retain him simply to bolster its defense against the discrimination charges; however, they also wouldn’t have fired him only because of that claim — barring blatant, over-the-top evidence of wrongdoing.

So, for now, it’s a stretch to think the Texans fired Gaine because of the discrimination complaint. Of course, further developments in the discrimination could change that assessment.