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Neil Mullin’s Case Against the NY Giants, Law360

NY Giants Settle Suit Claiming GC Made ‘Strangle’ Threat

By Bill Wichert

(June 7, 2022, 8:16 PM EDT) – The New York Giants settled a whistleblower lawsuit from a former video director who claimed that he was fired for making workplace violence complaints and that the team’s general counsel threatened to “strangle” him if he shared confidential information, according to a filing on Tuesday in New Jersey state court.

In a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice, plaintiff David Maltese and the defendants, the Giants and the general counsel, William J. Heller, agreed that “all claims and counterclaims, that were or could have been asserted in this matter, be dismissed with prejudice, without an award of costs, expenses or attorney’s fees to any party.”

Pat Hanlon, the Giants’ senior vice president of communications, told Law360 on Tuesday, “The only thing I would offer is that the case was settled amicably.” Hanlon said he could not provide details about the settlement terms.

Counsel for Maltese declined to comment Tuesday.

The resolution comes about four months after Bergen County Superior Court told the partiesto try to hash out a deal in mediation. They later agreed that the mediator would be retired Bergen County Assignment Judge Peter E. Doyne, now a member of Ferro Labella & Weiss LLC, according to a Feb. 17 letter to a court staffer from one of Maltese’s attorneys.

The May 2021 lawsuit largely centered on Maltese’s allegation that he reported to the Giants and Heller that his immediate supervisor, Tyseer Siam, physically attacked and assaulted one of Maltese’s subordinates during a September 2020 altercation. Following an internal investigation, Siam was moved to a different position with the team, according to the lawsuit.

Maltese said he also pointed out to the team and Heller that “Siam’s violence was just a recent example of a pervasive and continuing pattern and culture of violence in the workplace by Giants’ management toward subordinates,” the suit said. Maltese alleged that he was attacked by separate team officials in previous incidents.

In retaliation for such complaints, Maltese purported that Heller threatened him, and he was terminated in March 2021 after roughly 30 years with the team, in violation of New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act or CEPA.

In seeking to dismiss the case, the Giants and Heller took aim at Maltese’s assertion that Heller told him that if he shared information regarding the internal probe into his allegations, “I will personally go into your office and strangle you until you can no longer breathe, OK? OK?”

The Giants and Heller argued in a motion brief that an audio recording of that exchange — which Maltese secretly recorded and later gave to the team — showed that he “intentionally and maliciously has misled the court and the public about the tone and content” of his communications with Heller, the confidentiality direction he received and the team’s response to his concerns.

Transcripts provided by the team and Heller indicated that Maltese laughed following the “strangle” remark.

Maltese countered that nothing in the lawsuit was deceptive, likening his purported laugh to the alleged reactions of workplace sexual harassment victims.

“One of the most powerful executives in the Giants’ organization made retaliatory threats to the powerless plaintiff. Like a woman facing harassment by a powerful executive in the workplace, plaintiff tried to de-escalate and survive,” Maltese said in a sur-reply brief. “Defendants’ unsupported smears to the contrary are frivolous and indecent and should not be tolerated.”

In denying the football team’s dismissal bid, Superior Court Judge Estela M. De La Cruz on Oct. 18 brushed aside the defense’s argument that the lawsuit misrepresented Heller’s remarks.

The judge said she “must take all the facts presented in the complaint as true and give the pleading a liberal reading.” Based on that review, she concluded that Maltese had set forth the “appropriate parameters for a CEPA claim.”

Maltese is represented by Neil Mullin and Virginia A. Pallotto of Smith Mullin PC.

The Giants and Heller are represented by Pamela J. Moore of McCarter & English LLP.

The case is Maltese v. New York Football Giants Inc. et al., case number L-3317-21, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, County of Bergen.

https://www.law360.com/newjersey/articles/1500581/ny-giants-settle-suit-claiming-gc-made-strangle-threat