MLB, in memo, chastises clubs for ‘unacceptable’ work facilities for female employees

In a pointed letter to teams last week, Major League Baseball said many clubs’ stadiums “fall embarrassingly below the high standards” needed for women who are part of the game’s traveling groups to do their jobs, create a ” untenable work environment” and that organizations must soon reconfigure their facilities to correct what the league has deemed “unacceptable,” according to a copy of the memo obtained by ESPN.

The letter, sent May 20 by MLB senior vice president of field operations Michael Hill to general managers, assistant general managers and select stadium operations staff, highlighted the issues. of a wide range of women – including coaches, trainers, analysts, translators, mental health professionals, massage therapists, player development workers and others – face substandard facilities. MLB regulations set out in a March 16, 2021 memo require female home and road team staff to be provided with a clean locker room space close to the main clubhouse, private and including a washroom and shower. .

“During the first six weeks of the season,” the memo reads, “it has become clear that a number of clubs are failing to comply with these requirements, particularly with regard to bringing women into visiting teams. “.

The memo echoed the sentiments of several women affected by the substandard facilities who spoke with ESPN on the condition that they not be named. Because they often have to walk to other areas of the stadium to go to the toilet, the women said, they spend a disproportionate amount of time planning trips to other areas of the stadium, which prevents them from being accessible to players and staff. A woman told a colleague’s response when someone asked her what the hardest part of her job was: ‘Finding the bathroom’.

Beyond the logistical issues of toilets and workspaces, women said there were issues of belonging. Traveling employees are often placed in ancillary media areas, rooms designed to accommodate visiting families, or other spaces away from the main locker room – locations entirely separate from quarters near a clubhouse in which teams congregate. . A long-term goal, several women said, is to eventually start a conversation about the use of clubhouse space and the possibility of reinventing it to help alleviate these issues.

While some women in the game have simmered silently over the inequity, sources said, others have raised concerns with the league about multiple stadium facilities, prompting MLB to release the memo. . Between a dozen and two dozen women are thought to travel and use the stadium facilities regularly, although not all 30 teams have women in their travel parties, sources say.

“It is unacceptable that women traveling as part of the visiting team are not provided with accommodation that allows them to perform their jobs at the same level as their male colleagues and counterparts,” the league memo reads. “Many women’s club facilities are embarrassingly below the high standards befitting a member of a visiting group of a Major League organization. They also create an untenable working environment for women, some of whom now choose not to travel to certain cities with Clubs that do not provide appropriate workplace accommodations for staff of any gender, violate MLB regulations, directly deprive women of equal opportunity access to participate in our great game and discourage qualified women from participating in baseball roles traditionally held by men.”

Although San Francisco Giants assistant batting coach Alyssa Nakken is the only woman on the major league coaching staff, others in different roles travel with the teams and need access to facilities. More than half a dozen women hold full-time coaching positions with minor league teams, including Rachel Balkovec, the manager of Tampa, the Class A affiliate of the New York Yankees. Minor league teams, whose stadiums pale in size and scope compared to those of major league teams, should accommodate women in the same way, according to a league official. In a number of minor league stadiums, according to sources, a room is reserved for all women involved in the games, which could lead to situations in which employees of both teams and a referee are forced to share the space.

Many big league stadiums, women in traveling groups have told ESPN, do not provide facilities conducive to their work. In one instance, a source said, the bathroom next to the dugout did not include a lock, prompting an employee to open the door multiple times while using the room.

The gold standard, they said, is at the Texas Rangers’ home stadium, Globe Life Field, which opened in 2020 and provided spaces in the main clubhouse large enough for multiple women and including a gym. private bath and shower.

MLB did not outline any potential repercussions for teams not following the regulations, but in the memo it asked teams to provide detailed floor plans, descriptions and photographs of potential changes to here on June 3.

“We understand that space constraints at some baseball diamonds may limit clubs’ ability to meet these requirements,” the memo reads. “However, we expect all Clubs to make the necessary sacrifices in order to provide satisfactory facilities for all female staff.”

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