A lawsuit alleging sexual harassment was filed yesterday in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division. The complaint was filed by a former batboy for the Birmingham Barons, the Chicago White Sox Double-A affiliate club. As seen in the caption below, the named defendants in the case are Omar Vizquel, the Birmingham Barons, the Chicago White Sox, and Chisox Corp. We have redacted the plaintiff’s name from all excerpts of the complaint to respect his privacy at this time.
The plaintiff alleges that Vizquel, then manager of the Barons, engaged in a pattern of sexual abuse and harassment towards him. Specifically, as alleged, Vizquel would intentionally expose himself and force the batboy to wash his back. Notably, this lawsuit calls for a holding of disability discrimination in violation of Title 1 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The plaintiff says he has autism. The alleged facts in the complaint are disturbing. Below are several excerpts:
Vizquel, a Venezuelan former major league ball player, had a storied 24-year professional career. After being passed over for the Detroit Tigers’ open managerial job in 2017, Vizquel joined the Chicago White Sox organization. He managed their Class A-Advanced team, the Winston-Salem Dash. In December 2018, Vizquel was promoted to manage the White Sox’ Class AA team, the Birmingham Barons.
In 2019, Vizquel was dismissed by the Barons a month before his contract was set to expire. Ken Rosenthal reported an incident occurred between him and a male employee, which resulted in an MLB investigation. The results of the MLB investigation are unknown. When reached by The Athletic, the clubhouse worker, who is no longer with the team, said: “I have to stay silent about this.” Vizquel, when asked about the situation, said: “I can’t really say anything about that because it really — nothing happened.”
Not long after, in 2020, MLB investigated domestic abuse allegations against Omar Vizquel. According to a December 2020 report by The Athletic, after six years of marriage, Vizquel’s wife Blanca suddenly fled the couple’s home in Arizona. Less than a week later, she reportedly initiated divorce proceedings. In an Instagram live video posted on Oct. 7, 2020, she announced in Spanish that “no one deserves to have violence against them.” In a statement, Vizquel strongly denied the allegations against him. The couple ultimately filed a joint motion to dismiss any charges, which was granted.
In the lawsuit filed on August 6, 2021, Vizquel faces allegations strikingly similar to the reported “incident between him and a male employee.” It is likely the same incident. The plaintiff describes disgraceful, unwanted sexual acts that Vizquel allegedly performed on him.
The plaintiff was allegedly warned by his supervisor, the Clubhouse Manager, that “everything that happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse.” When the plaintiff told others in the organization that he was forced to wash the naked Vizquel’s back, the Clubhouse Manager allegedly “took no further action but only laughed, further humiliating [plaintiff]."
With that, the plaintiff names the Birmingham Barons and Chicago White Sox as defendants because of their “negligent and/or wanton supervision, training and/or retention." The plaintiff alleges that the defendants not only knew of Vizquel’s revolting behavior, but they enabled it. Further, according to the complaint, Vizquel is a repeat offender and should not have been hired to begin with. In tort law, an employer may be found negligent for providing an employee with the ability to engage in a particular act. An employer can be held liable for a negligent hiring. This is a civil lawsuit, as a private citizen cannot individually bring a criminal action.
The plaintiff, in his prayer for relief, requests a declaratory judgment that the employment practices, policies, procedures, conditions, and customs that led to the discrimination by Defendants violate Plaintiff's rights as secured by Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101, et seq. ("ADA"), and Alabama state law. Additionally, the plaintiff requests an Order requiring the Defendants to make Plaintiff whole by awarding Plaintiff reinstatement, back pay (plus interest), lost benefits, and compensatory, punitive, and nominal damages.
Jason Morrin is a third-year law student at Hofstra Law School in New York. He is the President of Hofstra’s Sports and Entertainment Law Society. Additionally, he is a Law Clerk at Geragos & Geragos. He can be found on Twitter @Jmorr1.