A couple of years ago umpire Angel Hernandez sued Major League Baseball alleging racial discrimination. The suit has chugged along quietly since then and we’ve not paid it much notice, but Sheryl Ring of Fangraphs has and she has a fascinating update from it that will be of interest to both law and labor geeks.
The short version: Major League Baseball wants to obtain records of communications between Hernandez and the umpire’s union, most likely to see if Hernandez ever brought up discrimination claims to his union before filing the suit. The league also wants the union’s own internal evaluations of the job Hernandez does on the field. MLB hopes to be able to undercut Hernandez’s arguments that he was discriminated against via these records.
That all makes sense, but it led to a side battle involving where the lawsuit should take place and whether MLB can get those records based on the law of said forum of the lawsuit. Hernandez sued in Ohio, which recognizes a privilege protecting worker-union communications. MLB got the suit moved to New York, however, and such a privilege is not recognized there. Earlier this week MLB got the New York court to agree that the union records should be handed over.
This is a big deal for Hernandez’s suit, obviously, but it has some pretty big implications for later lawsuits involving unionized employees in general. Oh, and as Ring explains, a screwup by Hernandez’s lawyers may have contributed to this outcome. Which, well, bad calls happen sometimes, right?
Go read Ring’s entire update here for a full, clear explanation that clear and easily understood even by the non-lawyers among us.