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Former New York Mets executive sues team owner for pregnancy discrimination

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A former New York Mets executive says one of the team’s co-owners routinely harassed, humiliated and eventually fired her because he objected to her being pregnant and unmarried, according to a federal lawsuit.

Leigh Castergine claims she was fired last month from her position as senior vice president of ticket sales and service in retaliation for reporting a year-long campaign of discrimination at the hands of Mets co-owner and Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Wilpon, according to documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York.

Ms. Castergine claims in the lawsuit that Mr. Wilpon allegedly “became fixated on the idea that she would have the child without being married” shortly after she announced her pregnancy to colleagues in September 2013.

“(Mr. Wilpon) frequently humiliated Ms. Castergine in front of others by, among other things, pretending to see if she had an engagement ring on her finger and openly stating in a meeting of the team’s all-male senior executives that he is ‘morally opposed to her having this baby without being married,’” the lawsuit alleges.

Ms. Castergine claims several other senior officials within the Mets organization were aware of Mr. Wilpon’s ongoing behavior but did nothing to abate it. On the several occasions that she reported the discriminatory acts to the Mets’ human resources department, Ms. Castergine claims she was urged to quit.

Mr. Wilpon’s alleged discriminatory behavior — as well as the team’s general dismissal of her complaints — persisted following Ms. Castergine’s return from maternity leave in June, the lawsuit claims. She was fired less than three months later, allegedly for failing to meet her sales goals.

“Mr. Wilpon expressed his belief that ‘something changed’ with Ms. Castergine and that she was no longer ‘as aggressive as she once had been,’” the lawsuit says, noting that Ms. Castergine’s maternity leave overlapped with the first three months the 2014 baseball season. “In fact, Mr. Wilpon fired Ms. Castergine based on his discriminatory views.”

The Mets organization said in a statement emailed Thursday to Business Insurance that it had received and reviewed Ms. Castergine’s lawsuit and that her claims are “without merit.”

“Our organization maintains strong policies against any and all forms of discrimination,” the team said in its statement.

Ms. Castergine’s lawsuit accuses Mr. Wilpon and the team of violating New York state and New York City nondiscrimination laws, as well as retaliation prohibitions under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. She is seeking reinstatement to her former position with the team, as well as unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

A copy of Ms. Castergine’s civil complaint is available here.