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Sarver review credits the Phoenix Suns for recent HR overhaul but documents past failure

The NBA’s investigation of Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver documents an institutional failure when team executives did nothing after an employee reported that a sponsor’s representative groped her.

The review also notes that many witnesses criticized the team’s human resources office as ineffective.       

Investigators found that criticism of the Suns’ HR office was well-grounded. Former HR staff often broke employee trust, and they kept shoddy records, which likely hindered the proper handling of complaints.

“There were gaps in process, in policy, communication (and) leadership inside the organization that created this environment,” said Tom Miller, CEO of Clearforce, a Virginia-based company that helps organizations identify behavioral risk issues that cause safety or security challenges.

Investigators credited the Suns for a recent overhaul of HR. But they also noted that witnesses blamed Sarver for HR’s past shortcomings due to the tone he set as owner.

A result of the investigation is the NBA now requires the Suns to conduct regular, anonymous workplace culture surveys.

The team also has to tell the league right away about allegations of significant employee misconduct.

“It’s going to be difficult to pick up on early indications of behavioral issues if you’re not constantly looking for them, and if you haven’t put in the systems and these procedures to make sure they can surface,” said Miller.

The NBA is making the Suns hire an outside firm to evaluate and recommend workplace policy and procedures.

The team also has to follow the league’s direction on fixing problems that may arise with organizational culture.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.