A lawyer representing former Mariners high performance director Lorena Martin in her wrongful-termination allegations against the team said Monday that her client’s arbitration case “was resolved” but declined to say more.
Arbitration hearings had been scheduled to begin in November. Martin’s lawyer, Robin Phillips of the Seattle firm Lasher Holzapfel Sperry & Ebberson, declined to specify when the case was settled. Mariners owner John Stanton confirmed Monday afternoon — at a news conference following the unrelated resignation of team CEO and president Kevin Mather — that the case was settled “some time ago.”
Martin did not respond to requests for comment.
In December 2018, Martin filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court alleging she had been fired in retaliation for complaints she made to team owner Stanton, minority owner Buck Ferguson and CEO Mather about alleged gender and racial discrimination. The court later ruled the case had to go through an arbitrator, as per the terms of Martin’s three-year contract.
The Mariners fired Martin in November 2018, just days after she took to Instagram with a series of posts highly critical of general manager Jerry Dipoto, player personnel director Andy McKay and manager Scott Servais — accusing them of poor leadership and being discriminatory toward Latino players and employees. The Mariners denied the allegations and said Martin hadn’t brought anything to their attention until after she was put on administrative leave in October 2018 for a series of work-related issues.
Martin’s lawsuit said she’d complained to the three top team officials about alleged discriminatory treatment as far back as March 2018, during her first spring training with the squad. She’d been hired to much fanfare in October 2017, but the lawsuit said her relations with Dipoto and McKay began souring by a January 2018 meeting in which she was called disparaging names and soon after was stripped of promised duties.
Her lawsuit claimed Mather, upon hearing from Martin about her treatment, vowed to address the situation and put a stop to what he viewed as bullying. The lawsuit said Stanton deferred Martin’s complaints to Mather, telling her he would handle things and she should stop trying to contact fellow Mariners owner Ferguson about them.
Instead, the lawsuit added, things got progressively worse and nothing was done.
Mather resigned Monday after becoming embroiled in a new controversy that erupted Sunday when video of a Feb. 5 speech given by the CEO to the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club surfaced. In it Mather makes a series of off-the-cuff comments about myriad issues and players in which he admitted the team manipulates service time, criticized the English proficiency of outfielder Julio Rodriguez and former pitcher/current coach Hisashi Iwakuma and mispronounced the last name of catcher Luis Torrens.
Mather apologized, but calls for his firing persisted, and he resigned Monday afternoon.
The MLB Players’ Association on Monday issued a statement calling his remarks “offensive” and “a highly disturbing yet critically important window into how Players are genuinely viewed by management.”
Martin’s lawyer, Phillips, is the same attorney who in 2009 and 2010 brought forth written complaints to the Mariners on behalf of two former executive assistants with the team that accused Mather — then an executive vice president with the team — of inappropriate workplace conduct. Those cases were settled out of court — sources indicated for an amount exceeding $500,000 — and the Mariners in July 2018, following a Seattle Times story about the allegations, issued a statement confirming Mather had been the subject of workplace complaints by two women, and the team had since “made amends” to them.
Mather issued an apology, saying: “At the time, I didn’t recognize how my actions were affecting the people around me. I am truly sorry for the people I hurt and how I came across.”
Mather was subjected to unspecified team discipline once the cases were settled, then was promoted to the title of team president in 2014. By late 2017, shortly before The Times story about the inappropriate workplace conduct settlements was published, he had the CEO role added to his title.
Mather remained in his role after news of the settlements was revealed. At the time, team owner Stanton said Mather had learned from the experience and had become an outstanding manager and executive.
Stanton also said the issues of almost a decade prior did not reflect on the organization’s current culture. A few months later, Martin made her allegations against the team.
The Mariners denied her allegations throughout, saying an internal team review and an investigation on behalf of MLB — conducted by a former senior MLB legal counsel — found no evidence of wrongdoing.