NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Wednesday dismissed longtime umpire Angel Hernandez’s lawsuit accusing Major League Baseball of racial discrimination.
The Cuban-born Hernandez, an MLB umpire since 1993, accused MLB of passing him over for crew chief and World Series assignments based on race and ethnicity, despite being more senior and getting better performance reviews than other umpires receiving the plum assignments.
Hernandez, 59, said the discrimination stemmed from a “history of animosity” from Hall of Famer Joe Torre, who was MLB’s chief baseball officer when Hernandez sued in 2017.
But U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken in Manhattan said Hernandez did not show MLB subjected him to disparate treatment or that its policies disproportionately harmed minorities.
The judge said MLB used factors other than seniority and performance when promoting umpires, and Hernandez did not show he was so much better qualified that discrimination might be inferred.
Citing an MLB expert, Oetken also said the fact few minorities were promoted was “statistically meaningless” because few promotions were available and few minorities applied.
Still, Oetken said he remained “mindful of the reality of unconscious bias and of the built-in headwinds that can freeze out protected groups from job opportunities and advancement.”
Hernandez’s lawyer Kevin Murphy said there is a “good” chance his client will appeal.
“Major League Baseball shouldn’t get a pass on promoting minority umpires just because there were so few to begin with,” he said. “That argument is tantamount to shooting your parents and then arguing you’re excused because you’re now an orphan.”
MLB’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.
Hernandez said he was rejected for crew chief positions five times between 2011 and 2018, and last umpired a World Series in 2005.
He said Torre’s animosity dated to 2001 when Torre, then managing the New York Yankees, criticized one his calls by saying Hernandez “just wanted to be noticed.”
Murphy said MLB has recently done better in promoting minorities: “Angel Hernandez’s suit, we believe, is the reason.”
The case is Hernandez v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-09035.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Lisa Shumaker)