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Phoenix Suns employee resigns, citing retaliation after reporting concerns about toxic, misogynistic culture

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A longtime Phoenix Suns employee resigned from the team last month, claiming she became a target of harassment and retaliation from her superiors after raising concerns about gender equality and misconduct within the organization. , documents obtained by ESPN show.

Melissa Fender Panagiotakopoulos, who started working for the Suns in August 2007, sent a resignation email on May 20 to 16 members of the ownership group, including majority owner Robert Sarver, challenging them to address what she said is a culture toxic and misogynistic workplace.

His resignation came amid the NBA’s investigation into Sarver and the Suns’ workplace, which the league launched in November after ESPN published a story detailing allegations of racism and misogyny in a workplace at sometimes hostile and toxic during Sarver’s 17-year tenure as majority owner. Sarver has denied most of the allegations in ESPN’s reporting.

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In his resignation email, Panagiotakopoulos wrote that he was sending it to “key stakeholders” to “ensure this group can influence positive change.”

She made no specific reference to any issues with Sarver, nor did she name any individual employees.

Panagiotakopoulos recently held the title of Senior Premium Experience Manager, a position responsible for helping generate revenue from high-end clients. He held that position from April 2014 until his resignation.

In the email, which was also sent to the Suns’ human resources chief, Panagiotakopoulos offered a list of allegations, saying “each of these points creates the culture and constitutes the character of our leadership.”

She alleged there were “inherent conflicts of interest with managers’ ability to take commissions, pick deals, review suite lease terms to line their own pockets, and operate in a different way than the rest of the sales organization without systems.” truly consistent. or carelessness.”

She also alleged gender inequalities and discrimination, writing, “Is it a coincidence that she has been the only mother in the entire sales organization for the last 15 years? Is it because certain men were paid more in equivalent roles?”

And he cited problems with HR’s “ability to stay relevant and influence senior executives: lack of follow through, ability to resolve conflict, or genuine concern for employee well-being.”

“We have been made aware of the allegations from a former employee and are investigating them, in accordance with our Respect in the Workplace Policy,” Suns Legacy Partners said in a statement provided to ESPN. “The Phoenix Suns are committed to creating a safe, respectful and inclusive work environment free from discrimination and harassment, and we do not tolerate retaliation for reporting suspected misconduct.”

Despite the team’s recent success on the pitch, Panagiotakopoulos wrote that the organization “has never been more dysfunctional and the culture is rapidly eroding.”

Panagiotakopoulos, who declined to comment for this story, also wrote that he had previously raised similar issues, including gender discrimination, in a memo to the team’s human resources department on Nov. 10, less than a week after the posting. ESPN’s initial story.

That note, which was attached to the email sent to Suns owners on May 20 and obtained by ESPN, read, in part, “For many years, it has been clear to me that the Suns organization does not give the same value to developing women in your workforce, or even ensuring that they are treated equally compared to their male counterparts.”

In that memo, Panagiotakopoulos alleged that a male colleague with a similar title but less responsibilities was paid at a higher rate and allowed to work from home.

“As a working mother, when I asked for the same flexibility, I was denied it,” she wrote. “I have observed these types of inequities throughout the Suns organization and have personally experienced the type of gender-based misconduct outlined in recent media reports. And when I tried to share my concerns with RR), I was fired. , and once they even told me to take a cold shower.”

In his resignation, Panagiotakopoulos referenced the November memo, writing, “Since that confidential interaction with senior leadership, HR and legal, there has been consistent retaliation and harassment from my direct leadership.”

“Among other things,” he wrote, “I was banned from client dinners, my every move, decision, and email scrutinized with excruciating levels of micromanagement.”

“My job has become more intolerable and toxic than ever,” Panagiotakopoulos said.

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