New York and California officials are investigating the NFL over allegations of workplace discrimination and a hostile work environment at football league offices.
According to a report in The New York Times, the two states’ attorneys general, Letitia James in New York and Rob Bonta in California, are investigating potential violations of federal and state pay equity laws and anti-discrimination laws, as the NFL faces several pending lawsuits filed by women who used to be employed with the league.
In their announcement, James and Bonta cited several lawsuits, including a race discrimination complaint that was filed by a Black female employee and a sexual harassment lawsuit from a woman who worked as an NFL Network wardrobe stylist. They also cited a 2022 New York Times report that more than 30 former female employees had alleged gender discrimination and retaliation after they had filed complaints with the NFL’s human resources division. The NFL has denied those allegations saying they are “entirely inconsistent” with the league’s values and practices.
Allegations of Workplace Discrimination and Harassment at the NFL
About 1,100 people work for the NFL at its offices in New York, New Jersey, and California. Of those, 37% are women and 30% are people of color, the Times reports. While the league has said it has put efforts into diversifying its workforce, women who work there say problems still persist.
One high-ranking executive, Jennifer Love, a 19-year veteran who left the league when her job was eliminated in March 2022, filed an age and gender discrimination case in April against the NFL and several executives. Love said human resources never addressed her complaints about pervasive sexism in the workplace. She told human resources and her supervisors that several top male executives were openly hostile to her. She got passed up for promotions in favor of men with less experience than her.
In addition, the NFL’s workplace culture came under scrutiny last year because of a discrimination lawsuit filed by an Afro-Latino former coach of the Miami Dolphins. It claimed that the league broke its rules requiring teams to interview a diverse range of candidates for the head coach and general manager positions. A congressional committee also investigated the NFL’s claims of widespread sexual harassment in the front office of the Washington Commanders.
Discrimination and Harassment in the Workplace
Discrimination occurs when one person or a group of individuals are subjected to unfair treatment because of factors such as race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, or veteran status. There are a number of federal laws that address each type of discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of the most comprehensive laws prohibiting workplace discrimination.
Discrimination in the workplace is often seen in how employers hire, fire, promote or offer training opportunities to employees. When discriminatory behavior crosses the line of unfair employment practices and escalates into verbal and physical abuse, it is considered harassment. When a workplace fosters an environment that is ripe for discrimination and/or harassment, a “hostile work environment” is said to exist. A hostile work environment is created when a victim is discriminated against or harassed to the point that it makes it difficult or impossible to perform their job duties effectively.
Steps to Take If You Have Faced Workplace Discrimination or Harassment
If you believe you have been discriminated against or harassed in the workplace, it is important that you contact an experienced California lawyer who deals with these areas of employment law. They can help you prove your case and assist you with filing a claim against your employer. There are a number of pieces of crucial evidence that can help you prove discrimination and/or harassment. Here are some of the important steps you can take to protect your rights:
- Report the discrimination or harassment to your supervisor or human resources department. If your company has a written policy, it should give you various options for reporting discriminatory or harassing behavior, including information on how to file a complaint.
- Save all communications, including emails, internal memos, direct messages, etc., which show harassing or discriminatory behavior.
- Do not post about your experience online or on social media. Get the advice of your lawyer first before sharing information with anyone.
- Keep all crucial evidence, including personnel files, in a location away from work, such as at home on a personal computer. This will allow you to access it at any time.
- Facing discrimination or harassment at work can be emotionally draining and even traumatic. Reach out to family members, friends, clergy, and/or mental health professionals who can offer you support during this difficult time.
- Reach out to an experienced employment attorney who can help protect your rights every step of the way.
It is also important to remember that your employer is prohibited from retaliating against you for filing a discrimination or harassment complaint. Doing so may be grounds for a retaliation claim or even a wrongful termination lawsuit if you have been fired over the matter.