Working for Justice

Is Your Employer Different From the NFL?

Posted January 30th, 2015 by in Gender Discrimination and Harassment.

This Sunday we will watch advertisements. We will see ads from an Official Pizza Sponsor (Papa John’s); an Official Dip Sponsor (Sabra Humus), an Official Chip and Dip Sponsor (Tostitos), and of course, an Official Beer Sponsor (Anheuser Busch). But among the gimmicks and cameos filling million-dollar ad slots, at least one ad will grab our attention in a more sobering and saddening manner. The ad features 911 call in which the caller ostensibly wants to order pizza. At first, the operator is confused, but after a series of careful questions, he realizes that that caller is the victim of domestic violence and is in the room with her abuser.

This public service announcement is the latest in a series from No More, a coalition of organizations fighting to raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual abuse. Throughout the 2014-2015 football season, the National Football League has partnered with No More, and donated valuable advertising space to the organization.

The League’s nascent commitment to this social cause emerged from its mishandling of the investigation into and punishment of Ray Rice, a former Baltimore Ravens running back. On February 15, 2014, Rice hit his then fiancée Janay Palmer (now his wife) in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino, knocking her unconscious. In July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sanctioned Rice with a two-game suspension and $529,411.24 fine. News of the lenient punishment immediately caused public outcry.

Goodell responded by announcing a new NFL domestic violence policy. Under the policy, the League is reportedly expanding education for NFL personnel;  implementing procedures to assist personnel and family members who might be at risk; supporting public education on the issue (e.g. the No More ads); and instituting new punishments for employees who commit acts of intimate partner violence.

Oddly, the fact that the NFL now has an official domestic violence policy sets it apart from most employers. According to Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence “[m]ore than 70 percent of United States workplaces do not have a formal program or policy that addresses workplace violence.” Indeed, “only 13 percent of corporate executives think their companies should address domestic violence.”

This attitude predominates despite ample evidence that intimate partner violence affects the workplace. According to Workplaces Respond (citing the CDC), “the annual cost of lost productivity due to domestic violence is $727.8 million (in 1995 dollars), with more than 7.9 million paid workdays . . . lost each year. “ Likewise, “In a 2005 telephone survey from the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, 64 percent of the respondents who identified themselves as victims of domestic violence indicated that their ability to work was affected by the violence.”

The NFL is starting to recognize this evidence and has taken steps to become a more responsible employer on this issue (albeit, time will tell whether the League’s commitment is merely ephemeral).  On Sunday, as we watch the chilling No More ad, we should all ask ourselves where our employers stand on intimate partner violence. Are they like the old NFL that botched the Ray Rice investigation? Or are they like the new NFL, making at least an outward attempt address intimate partner violence? Unfortunately, the statistics tell us how most of us will respond.

David Tracey

David Tracey

David Tracey is a Senior Litigation Counsel in the New York office of Sanford Heisler Sharp who works primarily on discrimination and wage and hour cases. Learn More

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