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JURY RULES AGAINST NBA, AWARDS FEMALE REFEREE $7.85M IN SUIT
Published April 14, 1998
A federal court in N.Y. Thursday "found the NBA guilty of sex discrimination for denying" Sandra Ortiz-del Valle, a Manhattan high school physical education teacher, "a chance to become one of the league's referees," according to Peter May of the BOSTON GLOBE. The U.S. District Court jury deliberated for two days before awarding nearly $8M to Ortiz-del Valle. The NBA said it would appeal. Ortiz-del Valle sued the NBA in the spring of '96 "after she was repeatedly told there was no position for her." She had "extensive" refereeing experience in several pro-am leagues, in the USBL and as an official in a preseason camp with the Nets. In the ruling, $7M of the $7.85M award was for punitive damages. The jury also awarded Ortiz-del Valle $100,000 for lost wages and $750,000 for emotional distress (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/10). In N.Y., Benjamin Weiser reported that the verdict "marks the first time the league has lost a discrimination case in court." NBA Chief Legal Officer Jeffrey Mishkin: "Here is a finding that the N.B.A. discriminates against women in the hiring of officials, and we are the only league that has them" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/10). MALE REFS BUY TIME? In S.F., Jorge Ortiz wrote the NBA "may have averted an immediate nightmare when several of the veteran referees currently under investigation by the IRS signed documents allowing them to work in the postseason and proceed with their cases afterward" (S.F. EXAMINER, 4/12).