Early April isn’t usually a big time for football action, but that’s exactly when the NFL received a cautionary letter from six attorneys general. If the league doesn’t address “a workplace culture that is overtly hostile to women”, the letter warned, there would be further action. The Office of New York Attorney General Letitia James sent the notice, which was co-signed by AGs from Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington.
The letter cited a February New York Times investigation in which female NFL employees reported:
- Being subjected to repeated viewings of the Ray Rice video, with commentary by coworkers that the victim had brought the violence on herself.
- A workplace training during which women were asked to raise their hand to self-identify if they had been victims of domestic violence or knew someone who had.
- Female employees being held back and criticized for having an “aggressive tone”
- Women experiencing unwanted touching from male bosses, attending parties where prostitutes were hired, and being passed over for promotions based on their gender.
- Female employees claimed that the NFL didn’t maintain records of instances of gender discrimination.
In the letter, the NFL was specifically warned of domestic violence protections in New York. Victims of domestic violence are a protected class under the state’s Human Rights Law. New York employers are prohibited from discriminating against victims of domestic violence and must provide employees reasonable accommodations, including leave, to address domestic violence issues.
StraightforWARD Legal Advice:
The NFL’s fumble should serve as a warning for employers. As a reminder, Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sex, the Equal Pay Act requires equal pay for equal work, and sexual harassment is unlawful in the workplace.
Additionally, employees should be aware that New York isn’t the only Ward Law state to have domestic violence protections.
- Employees in Florida & New Jersey may be eligible for leave to address domestic or sexual violence.
- Pennsylvania doesn’t have statewide protections, but its two largest cities do.