Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz
[UPDATE: Jonathan Tannewald has updated his original article with a quote from Nick Sakiewicz that says, "The team disputes the allegations in the complaint and will vigorously defend against the lawsuit."]
Former Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak has sued the Union for wrongful termination and breach of contract in connection with his firing on June 13.
In documents filed on July 20 with the US District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Nowak claims his former club did not act in good faith when it fired him.
Nowak’s suit, first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, revolves around the issue of severance pay. Nowak claims that he is entitled to payment through the end of his original contract term of 2015, by which time his yearly salary would have been $408,446.
A separation agreement letter from the Union argues that Nowak is due payments of his current regular monthly base pay of $31,087.50 through December 31, 2012.
Under the Union’s offer, Nowak had until July 20 to sign the separation agreement.
When he did not do so, the club issued a letter of cause for termination, outlining the reasons behind his firing. These include:
- Various material breaches of MLS rules, including the league’s collective bargaining agreement, such as engaging in verbal and physical confrontations during games, interfering with the right of players to contact the players’ union with concerns, subjecting players to inappropriate hazing activities and engaging in behavior that put the health and safety of Team players at risk;
- Violating his employment agreement by actively seeking employment with a European club and making disparaging remarks to third parties about the club, its management and owners;
- Demonstrating gross negligence by putting the health of players at risk by requiring injured players to train, denying water to players during training, ignoring the advice of the team’s head trainer regarding which players are healthy enough to play in games, and creating an environment where players should hide injuries from team medical staff;
- Committing actions which reflect negatively on the team, including harsh treatment of players, inappropriate behavior during games, and engaging in discussions with the head of US Soccer that were in poor taste and left a bad impression with the federation.
- Multiple incidents of insubordination with the team’s CEO.
- Breaches of Team Rules, including creating a hostile work environment and culture of fear for team players and front office staff through verbal and physical intimidation.
The termination letter also serves notice that Nowak must immediately repay an unsecured loan of $60,000 from when his contract was extended in 2011 as well as prepaid marketing rights fees to the amount of $46,041.
Documents included in the filing, including his original contract, reveal Nowak made $373,050 in 2010 and 2011.
Among the benefits of his employment were a “use of an automobile, the make and model of which shall be mutually agreed upon by Manager and Club,” 16 round-trip airline tickets for the use of Nowak and his family between Philadelphia and Naples, Florida, a minimum level of business class for any air travel in excess of 3 hours,”and all international flights and hotel accommodations will be at least a Junior Suite.”