In the latest bombshell regarding Chivas USA, this one entirely real, former Chivas USA Academy director and coach Teddy Chronopoulos and coach Dan Calichman have sued the club for a variety of reasons. In a filing dated May 30, 2013, the duo claim Chivas USA discriminated against them and harassed them based on "national origin, ethnicity and race," failing to prevent said discrimination and harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination of employment, and emotional distress.
You may recall that the pair was abruptly fired in the middle of the USSDA season back in March, with previous Academy director Sacha van der Most re-taking the position. At the time, the details surrounding the switch were unclear, but according to Chronopoulos and Calichman, the team first suspended and then dismissed them because they were not of Mexican heritage and could not speak Spanish.
Among the allegations:
MR. CALICHMAN and MR. CHRONOPOULOS, both of whom performed their coaching duties in an exemplary manner, were suspended in January 2013 and terminated in March 2013. In explaining the actions, Chivas USA President, Jose David, informed
them that Chivas USA was going back to its Mexican roots - a sentiment echoed by Jorge Vergara, who brazenly pronounced, "If you don't speak Spanish, you can go work for the Galaxy." (pg. 2)
Upon assuming sole ownership and control of CHIVAS USA, Mr. Vergara In carrying out CHIVAS USA's discriminatory practice and design, Mr. Vergara installed Mexican individuals in virtually all of the highest management and executive positions at CHIVAS USA. José David, a Mexican national, was hired as President. He appointed
José Luis Real, a Mexican national, to be in charge of all CHIVAS USA's soccer operations (including, without limitation, supervision of coaching staff, players and the Youth Academy). And, he hired another Mexican - José Luis Sanchéz Solá (known familiarly by his nickname,"El Chelis") - as the Head Coach of the First Team. Recently, he installed Juan Francisco Palencia, yet another native of Mexico, as Director of Soccer. (pgs. 8-9)
On or about November 8, 2012, MR. CHRONOPOULOS met with CHIVAS USA's President, Jose David. MR. CHRONOPOULOS told Mr. David that there were rumors circulating throughout the organization that the Chivas USA staff, including the Academy staff, was going to be let go and replaced by Mexican-American employees, and that CHIVAS USA, including the Academy, was only going to recruit Mexican-American players. When MR. CHRONOPOULOS asked Mr. David whether the rumors were true, Mr. David evaded the question and did not respond. (pg. 10)
On or about November 13, 2012, Mr. Vergara - now the sole owner and highest ranking senior executive at CHIVAS USA - called a mandatory meeting of all employees, including plaintiff MR. CHRONOPOULOS. At the meeting, Mr. Vergara intentionally humiliated all employees who were neither Mexican nor Latino. Mr. Vergara brazenly announced that all non- Spanish speaking employees would be fired. He asked, publicly, for those employees who were able to speak Spanish to raise their hands (he initially asked the question in Spanish and then repeated it in English). He then asked employees who spoke English to raise their hands. After publicly identifying those employees who did not speak Spanish, he announced that those employees who did not speak Spanish would no longer be able to work at CHIVAS USA. As he further stated, "If you don't speak Spanish, you can go work for the Galaxy, unless you speak Chinese, which is not even a language." Mr. Vergara's conduct was offensive, it confirmed the existence of a hostile, intimidating, and discriminatory work environment based on national origin, ethnicity and race, and was a direct violation of CHIVAS USA's own harassment policy. CHIVAS USA's Human Resources Manager, Cynthia Craig, who was in attendance at the November 13th meeting, was visibly offended by his comments was overheard by MR. CHRONOPOULOS and several other employees stating, in shock, "Oh boy. I can't believe he just said that." (pg. 10)
On or about November 20, 2012, MR. CHRONOPOULOS attended a meeting with CHIVAS USA's President and Chief Business Officer, Jose David. During the meeting, Mr. David asked about and discussed the origins and ethnicity of all of the Academy players and coaches - specifically wanting to know who was Mexican or Mexican-American and who was not. Prior to Mr. Vergara taking over as CHIVAS USA's sole owner and Mr. David's installation as its President, MR. CHRONOPOULOS, during his tenure at the Academy, had never been asked to identify players and coaches who were Mexican. MR. CHRONOPOULOS left the meeting upset. It verified the ethnocentric and discriminatory design that the new ownership and management had for CHIVAS USA. On or about December 18, 2012, MR. CHRONOPOULOS met with Chivas USA President and Chief Business Officer, Jose David. Mr. David directed MR. CHRONOPOULOS, during the Winter Break (December 20th to January 6th), to collect ethnic and national origin data pertaining to all Chivas Academy players and their parents (emphasis in original). When the requests for this information were sent to the parents, many of them were offended and refused to provide it and at least one parent (Mr. Morris) complained that he felt he was being discriminated against and was fearful that his son would not be allowed in the Academy. (pg. 11)
On or about Friday, January 11, 2013, upon returning from the Winter Break, MR. CALICHMAN and MR. CHRONOPOULOS - convinced that they were amongst the targets of CHIVAS USA's discriminatory design and that their employment was in jeopardy - personally submitted written complaints of discrimination and harassment to CHIVAS USA's Human Resources Manager, Cynthia Craig...At approximately 12:15 p.m. on January 14, 2013, MR. CALICHMAN was finally called into the meeting with Mr. David and Ms. Craig. Mr. David asked MR. CALICHMAN what he would like to discuss. Perplexed, MR. CALICHMAN responded that it was Mr. David and Ms. Craig who called the meeting and, thus, that he presumed that it was they who wanted to discuss something. Mr. David then commenced speaking at length about the Mexican "culture" of Chivas and how the team needed to get back to its roots. Ms. Craig abruptly interrupted him and, as if Mr. David had forgotten the agenda and script set by and practiced with CHIVAS USA's employment lawyers, told MR. CALICHMAN that the meeting was about his complaint that he had submitted to her on Friday, January 11th. Ms. Craig assured MR. CALICHMAN that CHIVAS USA was going to conduct a "full investigation" into MR. CALICHMAN's allegation of discrimination and harassment. Mr. David then, in a perfunctory and mechanical manner, said he was sorry for Mr. Vergara's comments at the November 12, 2012 meeting. MR. CALICHMAN asked why CHIVAS USA had not apologized for or disavowed Mr. Vergara's comments earlier. Indeed, CHIVAS USA had done nothing since the November 12th meeting to reassure the employees, coaching staff and players that employment decisions would be made without regard to race, national origin or ethnicity. To MR. CALICHMAN's shock and surprise, Mr. David, in response, not only failed to disavow the discriminatory plans implemented and expressed by Mr. Vergara; he confirmed them. Mr. David returned to his discussion of culture and ethnicity. He told MR. CALICHMAN that he (Mr. David) and Mr. Vergara were taking the team "back to its Mexican roots." MR. CALICHMAN asked Mr. David if he could please repeat what he said. Mr. David repeated that it was important for the team to "go back to its Mexican roots." MR. CALICHMAN replied that neither his name nor MR. CHRONOPOULOS' name sounded Mexican. An brief and awkward silence ensued, after which Mr. David sighed and, acknowledging that MR. CALICHMAN and MR. CHRONOPOULOS were not part of the effort to take the team back to its Mexican roots, nodded his head in affirmation. (pg. 12-13)
After Mr. David verified that MR. CALICHMAN was not part of the organization's plan to take the team back to its roots, MR. CALICHMAN told Mr. David and Ms. Craig that he loved coaching his Academy team and that it seemed absurd to be firing him in the middle of the season. He reminded them that his U18 Academy Team - the team that he coached - had done very well since he took the position. Ms. Craig responded, "We know you're an excellent coach," but told him that the organization was "moving in a different direction." She told MR. CALICHMAN that he was not being fired; instead, she began cryptically referring to "options," and asked MR. CALICHMAN whether he would consider resigning with a severance package. MR. CALICHMAN replied that it had been a very stressful time for him and his family and that he was not in a position to discuss it right then and there. Mr. David and Ms. Craig stated that they would "put something together" for him to consider. Even though he was told he was not being fired, MR. CALICHMAN was told not to return to his coaching duties. (pg. 13-14)
On February 8, 2013 and February 15, 2013, MR. CALICHMAN and MR. CHRONOPOULOS, having received no information as to status of CHIVAS USA/INSPERITY's alleged investigation into their allegations of harassment and discrimination - and still on suspension form their duties - filed complaints of harassment, discrimination and retaliation with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Defendants were promptly notified of the complaints. (pg. 15)
On March 7, 2013, MR. CALICHMAN and CHRONOPOULOS received identical letters from CHIVAS USA President and Chief Business Officer, Jose David, notifying them that their employment was being terminated effective the next day, March 8, 2013. Two months had now elapsed since they had lodged their complaints of harassment and discrimination with CHIVAS USA's Human Resources Department. Although Mr. David, in his letter, asserted that CHIVAS USA had been conducting an investigation into their complaints (he refers to it as the "entire investigation process"), the letter is conspicuously silent as to whether the investigation had been concluded or what the conclusions of the investigation were. Moreover, in further retaliation for their complaints, Mr. David falsely and maliciously accused them of "demonstat[ing] unprofessional conduct that created an unsafe work environment." Underscoring the pretextual and false nature of his accusations, Mr. David provided no explanation whatsoever as to how they allegedly created an unsafe work environment. (pg. 16-17)
Chronopoulos and Calichman are asking for the lawsuit to go to a jury trial. They are asking for damages on all counts.
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