Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Suns employee resigns after alleging toxic and misogynistic workplace culture

A longtime employee of the Phoenix Suns resigned from the team in May after alleging toxic and misogynistic workplace culture, according to documents obtained by ESPN. The woman, who had worked for the Suns since 2007, sent a detailed resignation letter to various members of the team’s ownership group. 

In her letter, Melissa Fender Panagiotakopoulos wrote that the organization has “never been more dysfunctional, and the culture is rapidly eroding.” Panagiotakopoulos added, “Over many years, it has become clear to me that the Suns organization does not place the same value on developing women in its workforce, or even on ensuring they are treated equally as compared to their male counterparts.”

Most notably, Panagiotakopoulos alleged that the Suns paid a male counterpart more money and gave him more workplace flexibility, including the option of working from home. Panagiotakopoulos, meanwhile, said she was not allowed to do the same, despite being a working mother. After voicing her concerns about the situation to the team’s HR and legal departments, Panagiotakopoulos alleges that she faced retaliation and bullying from colleagues. 

In a statement to ESPN, the Suns said they were aware of the allegations:

“We have been made aware of allegations by a former employee and are investigating them, consistent with our Respect in the Workplace Policy. The Phoenix Suns are committed to creating a safe, respectful, and inclusive work environment free of discrimination and harassment, and we do not tolerate retaliation for the reporting of alleged misconduct.”

Panagiotakopoulos’ resignation and complaints come amid a time of increased scrutiny on the Suns. The organization and owner Robert Sarver have been under investigation by the NBA since last November over claims of racism, misogyny and a toxic workplace culture. 

In April, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said there is no timeline on the league’s investigation, but noted it is nearing an end. 

“The investigation is ongoing,” Silver said. “I mean, these type of investigations do take a lot of time. You want to ensure that you gather all of the facts and you also want to ensure that you protect the rights of the accused. So we want to err on the side of being very complete. We’re certainly closer to the end than the beginning, but it’s hard to put a precise timeline on it right now.”

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