Age motivated the firing of scouts for MLB’s Detroit Tigers, suit alleges

Dive Brief:

  • Two scouts for Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers sued the team Dec. 27, alleging that they were fired as part of a leaguewide initiative to intentionally push out older scouts and recruit younger scouts in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
  • The plaintiffs, ages 68 and 67, had each worked in MLB for more than 20 years prior to their termination by the Tigers in late 2020. Per the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, the team said the terminations were necessary due to financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic but failed to request a Paycheck Protection Program loan that would allow for the plaintiffs to be retained.
  • Plaintiffs also alleged that the Tigers, along with the rest of MLB’s 30 teams, did not renew or decided to terminate contracts for 51 out of at least 83 older scouts in following years. Older scouts “have been effectively and intentionally frozen out of the Scout labor market to an extent not applicable to younger Scouts,” the plaintiffs claimed. A spokesperson for the Tigers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dive Insight:

The suit mirrors a set of age discrimination allegations made by MLB scouts in June 2023. In Benedict v. Manfred, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, several former scouts ages 50 and older sued MLB teams claiming that they were terminated during the pandemic, denied rehiring and replaced by younger scouts.

Like the plaintiffs in Benedict, the ex-Tigers scouts alleged that the team used COVID-19 as a “pretextual reason” for terminating their employment. “Even if Defendant did not specifically terminate Plaintiffs due to their age, Defendants’ stated desire to hire Scouts that were more adept with technology was based on an age stereotype and had a disparate impact on older Scouts, including Plaintiffs,” according to the Dec. 29 suit.

In both suits, plaintiffs claimed that MLB teams terminated older scouts due to a “false stereotype” that older scouts lack the ability to use analytics and conduct video scouting at the same level as younger scouts. Prior to the pandemic, shifts in baseball scouting methods had pressured longtime scouts to adapt, The Ringer reported in 2019.

The pandemic also saw MLB teams terminate scouts who did not comply with organizational COVID-19 vaccination policies. In 2022, a former scout for the Washington Nationals sued the team, alleging that it violated District of Columbia and federal law when it denied his request for a vaccine exemption. Litigation in that case is ongoing.