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Former NY Mets Pitching Coach Sues Team for Age Discrimination

By Douglas Lipsky

Ex-New York Mets pitching coach Phil Regan has filed a lawsuit against the franchise, alleging the team fired him after the 2019 season because of his age. Whether Regan’s case has merit remains to be seen. In the meantime, if you believe your employer has discriminated against you because of your age, talk to an experienced New York City age discrimination attorney.

The Backdrop

Regan, who played and coached in the majors for six decades, was named Mets’ interim pitching coach in the middle of the 2019 season to replace Dave Eiland. Regan joined the Mets as a pitching coach of Class A St. Lucie in 2009 and was named minor league pitching coordinator in 2016. 

The Met fired Eiland on June 20, 2019, when the team was fourth in the NL East at 35-39 with a 4.67 ERA, 20th among the 30 MLB clubs. Regan was named interim pitching coach, and the team saw immediate results, according to the suit. Regan claims staff aces – Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, and Noah Syndergaard – all improved under his watch, and the pitching staff lowered their ERA to 4.24 by the end of the season. 

In the suit, Regan said the team’s then General Manager, Brody Van Wegan, told Reagan he wasn’t coming back because he was “too old.” He was 82 at the time. Regan also alleged that Van Wiegan told him, “If we don’t find the young pitching coach we are looking for, we will hire you back.”

The Mets hired former MLB pitcher Jeremy Hefner to replace Regan in the offseason. Hefner, 33 at the time, is still the team’s pitching coach. Regan claims the Mets offered him a minor league contract at reduced terms. The suit alleges age discrimination and wrongful termination, names Van Wiegan as a co-defendant, and seeks unspecified damages. 

About Age Discrimination in New York 

Federal, state, and city laws prohibit age discrimination in the workplace. Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), employers cannot discriminate against employees 40 years and older regarding any aspect of employment (e.g. hiring, compensating, promoting, terminating).  The ADEA applies only covers employers with 20 or more employees. Workers in New York have stronger legal protections under the state and city human rights laws, which apply to individuals 18 and older and cover most employers. 

In short, employment decisions that adversely impact older employees and job candidates not based on a reasonable factor other than age may be illegal, including firing older workers due to their age and replacing them with younger candidates. However, proving age discrimination is challenging because employers know how to conceal their discriminatory motives. 

The Takeaway

Age discrimination is becoming increasingly common as the U.S. workforce grows older, although suing for discrimination in professional sports is rare. Nonetheless, Phil Regan’s lawsuit against the Mets highlights how employees can fight ageism in the workplace with the help of an experienced employment law attorney.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.