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NFL player’s experience sheds light on workplace bullying

The issue of bullying in the workplace in Los Angeles and across the country has been brought to the forefront of our national conversation with the case of a very unlikely victim — a 6-foot-5 pro football player weighing in at more than 300 pounds.

Jonathan Martin, a right tackle for the Miami Dolphins, reportedly walked out of the team’s lunchroom on Oct. 28 after a seemingly harmless, albeit juvenile, prank by his teammates. He has not returned to the team, and did not play in that week’s game. There has been widespread talk of ongoing bullying and harassment, by one fellow player in particular, that led up to the cafeteria incident.

Those reports have not yet been confirmed, even by Martin himself. The Stanford University-educated player took to Facebook to tell his fans they should not give credence to everything that has been reported.

Dolphins Coach Joe Philbin told the press that the team is investigating the incident, and said that he does not condone bullying. The players’ union and the National Football League (NFL) are also investigating reports of long-term harassment of Martin.

While locker room hazing, particularly of rookie players, is nothing new, the fact that it got to the point where a player walked off the job and missed a game has even some veteran players and sports reporters concerned.

We have all worked with people who didn’t seem to get their fill of bullying and general “mean girl” behavior in middle school, and continue it into the workplace. While most workplace bullying is verbal rather than physical, it can indeed be considered discrimination , and can leave the employer liable.

Most people in a workplace have undergone some type of sexual harassment training. Far fewer have had anti-bullying training. If a professional football player with a roughly $1.2 million contract isn’t protected by his employer, many employees feel that they have little or no chance of receiving protection.

It is essential that employers have zero-tolerance policies in place for bullying. If an employee is subjected to verbal or physical harassment in the workplace and his or her employers do not intervene to stop it, that employee may well have a discrimination case against the company and possibly supervisors who participated in or allowed the activity.

USA today, “Martin situation in Miami brings bullying to forefront” Jarrett Bell, Nov. 02, 2013

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