The sports headlines this week have turned into news ones.  One football player on the Miami Dolphins, Richie Incognito, is accused of harassing (bullying? hazing?) another player, Jonathan Martin. 

The details are still being determined so despite the media jumping to conclusions, it really does seem too soon to enter a final judgment on the entire incident. 

But two aspects from the last day are disturbing to me as an employment lawyer and are worth a quick review for employer.

First, there’s the notion being tossed around that Martin — the alleged victim —  just should have fought back against Incognito, perhaps even physically.

Why is that being advocated?  Because football players are “men” and that’s what “men” do.


Can you imagine this same philosophy being advocated for construction personnel? Or prison guards? Or other fields in which physical attributes are sought?

Or what if there was same-sex harassment involving two female employees? A recent filing by the EEOC tackled that one

Human resources departments around the country should be shaking their heads.    If this happened in a so-called “real” workplace, that type of fighting back likely leads to another outcome — discipline for both for fighting in the workplace.   While we do advocate suggesting employees tell their harasser to stop, that’s where the line should stop. 

And for someone who believes that they are being harassed, they ought to be encouraged also to go to a supervisor or human resources person for assistance.  It’s up to the supervisors to do something. 

While leads me to the second troubling aspect of the story that I saw with this headline:

“Sources: Dolphins coaches asked Incognito to toughten up Martin”

If true, it would similar to the “Code Red” scenario from the movie and play “A Few Good Men”.  You know the one . It’s where Jack Nicholson ordered extra-judicial punishment of soldier to teach him a lesson and the soldier died as a result.   

This type of scenario illustrates a complete breakdown of the order that should be in place in a workplace. When supervisors condone the harassment of employees by co-workers, that should send off a real “Code Red” for employers — it’s a potential big liability problem on it hands.

Did that happen in Miami? We don’t know yet.

But for employers that like drawing lessons from real life parallels, the case out of Miami is setting up as a doozy.