Sobotka sues Olympia over firing, alleges discrimination over age, disability

Photo gallery: Detroit Red Wings celebrate final game at Joe Louis Arena
Posted at 9:55 PM, Apr 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 21:55:25-04

(WXYZ) — Former Detroit Red Wings Zamboni driver Al Sobotka has sued Olympia Entertainment alleging that his firing violated his civil rights due to age discrimination and disability.

It was announced last month that the Wings had parted ways with Sobotka. No details were released at the time.

In his lawsuit, Sobotka alleges that his firing violates Michigan's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act and Michigan's Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act. The suit says that Sobotka has been diagnosed with benign prostatic hypertrophy, a condition that causes a frequent and uncontrollable need to urinate.

According to the lawsuit, on February 2, 2022, Sobotka has just finished cleaning and maintaining the ice in the main rink when he moved the Zamboni into the garage. It was at this point the suit says Sobotka was hit with an uncontrollable urge to urinate due to his condition. The suit says to access the nearest restroom, Sobotka would have to exit the garage and walk 60 to 70 feet to a public restroom.

The suit says Sobotka instead stood behind two Zambonis and urinated in a "pit" where the ice from the Zamboni is unloaded, drains, and runs into the sewer. He was seen by another worker, who reported the action to management. According to the lawsuit, the area is not open to the public, and access is limited to the ice crew, all of whom are male.

Sobotka says in the suit that two days later he was called into a meeting with his supervisor where he was asked if he urinated into the pit. Sobotka admitted to doing so, at which point he was told he was suspended for one week and "under investigation." Two weeks later, the suit says Sobotka was fired for "bad judgment," despite never being interviewed as part of the investigation and never being given an investigative report or results.

The suit also says that a month prior to the incident, in January 2022, Sobotka took part in a Zoom meeting with Vice President of Venue Operations Tim Padgett who told him he was getting old. Sobotka is 68 and had worked for Olympia for 51 years.

Neither the Red Wings nor Olympia Entertainment has yet commented on the lawsuit, which was filed in Wayne County Circuit Court on Wednesday.

Sobotka is being represented by Deborah Gordon.

You can read the entire lawsuit below:

Sobotka lawsuit by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd