Former Under Armour Exec Levels New Accusations of Discrimination Against Brand and Then-Manager

A former Under Armour Inc. executive — who in the summer filed a racial discrimination and defamation lawsuit against the sportswear company and his then-supervisor — has levied more accusations in his latest filing in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

According to documents dated Oct. 7, Leon Duncan, who is black, claimed that he was denied a promotion, paid less than a white subordinate and defamed following his termination at the Baltimore-based firm. (Duncan first filed the claims in July 19.)

He named SVP and group GM for the sports division Mark Cavanaugh as “a supervisor [whom Under Armour] was aware has a reputation for treating black employees more harshly than their white counterparts.”

In a statement to FN, Under Armour wrote, “While we don’t comment on the specifics of litigation, Under Armour denies the claims. They are without merit, and we will vigorously defend against the lawsuit.”

Duncan had served as a marketing executive at the brand for more than a decade until he was fired on July 11, 2018. The filing read that, in 2017, Duncan’s boss at the time, SVP of global brand management Adrienne Lofton, who is also black, submitted paperwork on his behalf, recommending that he be promoted to VP.

However, chief marketing officer Andrew Donkin, who is white, is alleged to have denied the promotion, purportedly because he did not believe that employees should get more than one promotion within a three-year period.

The lawsuit states that shortly after, Duncan found out one of his subordinates, a white man on a “performance improvement plan,” received a salary $40,000 higher than his own. Duncan said that he objected to the pay disparity, but human resources dismissed his concerns.

The filing added that, after bringing the issue to Lofton’s attention, Duncan received an $18,000 raise. (Lofton exited in 2018 after nine years at the brand and joined rival athletic giant Nike.)

Restructuring at Under Armour in August 2017 led to Duncan being placed under the supervision of Cavanaugh, according to the lawsuit. (Furthermore, despite reassurances prior to the restructuring, Duncan complains that his responsibility for the golf business that he helped grow from $10 million to $360 million in eight years was taken away from him.)

In his suit, Duncan alleges that Cavanaugh “constantly belittled and unfairly criticized” him, as well as “made disparaging comments and references” about him when he was away from the office, including referring to him as “Captain PTO” (or Paid Time Off).

In the filing, Duncan is said to have complained about Cavanaugh’s “hostile and demeaning treatment” to the latter’s supervisor, chief product officer Kevin Eskridge, who allegedly told him to work through such issues with Cavanaugh “without involving human resources.”

The circumstances that led to Duncan’s dismissal from Under Armour are also included in the court documents.

According to Duncan, in the summer of 2018, he was contacted by Under Armour’s asset protection team regarding business expenses that he had submitted for reimbursement. (Duncan admits in the suit that he failed to timely deliver those expenses in accordance with the company’s internal policy despite their being “otherwise legitimate business expenses.”)

Then, on July 11, 2018, Duncan states that he was called into a meeting with Cavanaugh and an HR employee, who informed him that he was terminated from the company because he “violated the expense policy” and for “insubordination.” Duncan added that he did not receive severance pay.

The amended complaint filed this month also includes an allegation of defamation. Post-termination, Duncan claims he learned that Cavanaugh and other members of Under Armour’s senior management team had allegedly given several people “shifting and inconsistent stories,” including that he had offered Under Armour products for free without authorization. (Duncan noted in the lawsuit that he was given a “promo” budget to supply products to grassroots organizations.)

Duncan states that he also separately filed a complaint in November 2018 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that Under Armour had discriminated against him on the basis of race and color, as well as subjected him to unlawful retaliation.

Duncan is seeking $75,000 in compensatory and punitive damages as well as a jury trial. His attorney, Tonya Baña, wrote in an email to FN that she is moving forward with discovery, or the pre-trial phase in which both the defendant and the plaintiff investigate the facts of a case.

“Mr. Duncan continues to look forward to having his day in court,” she said.

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