Workplace Harassment and Discrimination in the News

There are two very big, very important stories in the news that deal with issues to which I devote a large portion of my law practice: workplace harassment and discrimination.  

The NFL is probably the most visible and popular example of raw aggression and masculinity in America. Unfortunately, a common byproduct of these traits is bullying, and NFL players themselves are not immune to it. No one but the players know for sure just how rampant it is, but the public is starting to get an idea. This week, Miami Dolphins player Jonathan Martin accused teammate Richie Incognito of bullying and harassment, some of which was racial in nature. Incognito has been indefinitely suspended while the NFL begins an investigation.

Also, the U.S. Senate has agreed to begin debate over a bill that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Though the bill could eventually succeed in the Senate, it is unlikely that the Republican-led House of Representatives will treat it so favorably. Even so, simply by surviving the threshold vote in the Senate the bill will generate a much-needed discussion about the importance of workplace protections against class-based discrimination. Our federal government and most states already prohibit discrimination on the basis of common characteristics such as age, gender, race, national origin, religion, and disability. Banning sexual orientation discrimination seems -- at least to me and a growing number of Americans -- like a natural next step.

All Americans should be able to work and earn a living without having to endure constant harassment and other adverse treatment from coworkers and employers. Is it really too much to ask that the law provide a remedy when those who want to contribute to the success of our economy are prevented from doing so for superficial, non-work-related reasons? Should we allow bullies and bigots to rule our workplaces?