Attorneys General Express Serious Concerns About NFL Treatment of Staff

Attorneys general in six states, including New York, told the NFL they had “serious concerns” about allegations of harassment of women and minorities in the workplace, and warned the league that if it did not address the issue, she may face extensive investigation.

Chief legal officers sent a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday outlining their concerns, stemming from a February report by The New York Times in which more than 30 former staff members described feeling demoralized.

Charges included female co-workers who said they were forced to watch a video showing former fugitive Ray Rice beating his then-unconscious bride; are asked to state publicly whether they have been victims of domestic violence; and be marginalized or fired when they question how the NFL addresses sexual harassment.

“All of this is completely unacceptable and potentially illegal,” the attorney general wrote in a letter to The Times, adding that they would use the full weight of our powers to investigate and prosecute allegations of harassment, discrimination or retaliation by employers. our states, including the National Football League. ” The league is headquartered in Manhattan, and Leticia James, Attorney General of New York, was among the signatories.

The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

James and other attorneys general planned to ask victims and witnesses of discrimination in the NFL to file complaints with her office. Often, civil investigations in the workplace begin after employees or former employees have filed complaints directly with the Attorney General’s Office. Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington joined New York.

The letter from the Attorney General came at a time when the NFL is facing an investigation in Congress into the workplace treatment of employees in its Washington franchise, as well as a lawsuit against Brian Flores, an African-American and former Miami Dolphin coach who said his league rules requiring teams to interview a variety of candidates for the positions of coach and general manager.

Flores was sacked by the Miami Dolphins at the end of the 2021 season and, having no offers from the head coach, was hired as an assistant defense coach at the Pittsburgh Steelers. A pre-trial conference on his federal lawsuit is scheduled for April 29.

Several teams have loudly denied Flores ’claims, and the NFL has said it is“ deeply committed to ensuring fair employment practices ”and that“ we will defend against these claims, which are unfounded ”.

A congressional committee is also investigating the NFL’s handling of allegations of widespread sexual harassment at the Washington Command’s front office. The committee requested tens of thousands of documents from the league and held a hearing in February, at which former employees shared their experience working in the team and proposed new charges of persecution against Daniel Snyder, owner of Commanders.

Snyder has denied the allegations, and the NFL has launched an investigation into recent allegations of sexual harassment. The League in 2021 completed an annual investigation into initial allegations of harassment by Commanders, fining the team $ 10 million but refusing to publish its full results.

Last week, Goodell said there was “no time” to complete the league’s investigation into whether Cleveland Browns defender Dashon Watson had violated his personal conduct policy. In 2020, 22 women accused him of sexual abuse, which Watson denied. In March, grand juries in two Texas counties dismissed 10 criminal cases against him.

The threat of an investigation into working conditions at NFL headquarters is the latest attempt by James, a Democrat who in 2018 became the first black woman elected by the Attorney General of New York, to confront companies and employers accused of sexual harassment or abuse.

Her investigations ranged from high-profile investigations by New York’s restaurant industry to less notable cases, such as an investigation by a construction company from Long Island in 2020 in which her office found she was sexually harassing 18 former employees.

Her office was investigating allegations of sexual harassment at the Spotted Pig restaurant in Manhattan, which closed in January 2020, a few weeks after James received a settlement from Ken Friedman, its main owner. Friedman agreed to pay $ 240,000 and part of his income to 11 former employees who accused him of sexual harassment, revenge and discrimination.

This investigation, which began under James ’predecessor, also examined cases of sexual harassment by Mario Batali, a famous chef and former investor in Spotted Pig.

James conducted a separate investigation into Batali and his former partner Joe Bastianich, which found that their once large restaurant business violated state and city human rights laws. Her office has arranged for $ 600,000 in mediation to pay at least 20 women and men who said they were sexually harassed while working in their high-end restaurants, including Babbo, Lupa and Del Posto.

Most recently, James’ office oversaw an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment – from inappropriate comments to cases of unwanted touching – against Andrew M. Cuomo, which led to his resignation as governor. In August, her office released a devastating report detailing cases in which Cuoma persecuted several women, including current and former civil servants, from executive aides to women soldiers.

“I trust women, and I trust these 11 women,” James said, publishing the report, adding that the state has a “commitment to protect women in their workplace.”

Luis Ferre-Sadurni contributed to reports from Albany, New York

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