Football on field

Attorneys General Investigate NFL For Discrimination and Harassment

By Douglas Lipsky

California Attorney General Rob Bonta and New York Attorney General Letitia James recently announced a joint investigation into allegations of employment discrimination and a hostile work environment at the National Football League (NFL). 

With over 1,000 employees at offices in New York and California, the NFL’s workplace culture will be examined for potential violations of federal and state pay equity and anti-discrimination laws. Both attorneys general have issued subpoenas to the NFL to gather relevant information. If you have been subjected to discrimination or harassment as an employee of the NFL or any other organization, talk to an experienced employment lawyer.

The Backdrop

Despite reports and allegations of abuse perpetrated by both players and male staff, the attorneys general contend that the NFL has not taken corrective action. Former female NFL front-office employees have made complaints regarding discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Lawsuits have been filed on various grounds, including:

  • Gender discrimination – Employees have alleged gender discrimination, which refers to unfair treatment based on a person’s gender, including disparities in pay, promotion, job assignments, or other opportunities based on gender.
  • Age and sex discrimination – A former manager filed a lawsuit alleging age and sex discrimination, alleging unfair treatment or prejudice based on her age.
  • Race discrimination – Lawsuits have been filed regarding race discrimination targeting a black female employee, alleging unequal treatment, bias, or prejudice based on race.
  • Sexual harassment – One of the lawsuits involves allegations of sexual harassment by a female wardrobe stylist. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome or offensive behavior of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or intimidating work environment. 
  • Hostile work environment – The former female manager’s lawsuit alleges a hostile work environment, which generally refers to an environment characterized by pervasive harassment, discrimination, or intimidation that interferes with an individual’s ability to work comfortably and effectively. 

These forms of discrimination violate federal and state laws that protect employees from unfair treatment or unequal opportunities in the workplace. The investigation aims to address these allegations and determine whether the NFL has violated federal and state laws regarding discrimination, pay equity, and workplace culture. Additionally, a recent congressional inquiry into workplace misconduct by the owner of an NFL team has led to calls for reform.

The Takeaway

Between the lines, football combines the thrill of athletic competition with aggression on any given Sunday. But recent allegations have shed light on the NFL’s workplace culture and employment practices. Whether the league has violated federal and state anti-discrimination laws remains to be seen. In the meantime, the best way for NFL front-office employees to protect their rights is to consult an experienced employment lawyer.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.