Miami Dolphins Player Flips Over “Offensive” Behavior

The investigator’s report of the high-profile harassment allegations made by Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin was recently released to the public.  Martin abruptly walked off the job in October 2013 alleging that his teammates subjected him to race-based harassment. Martin claimed the ringleader of the behavior was fellow offensive lineman, Richie Incognito.

Martin alleged Incognito engaged in a barrage of name-calling and sent him inflammatory text messages. Since his suspension from the team in November, Incognito has claimed he and Martin were “best friends” and that the behavior was “in good fun” and an attempt to create a “brotherhood” among the offensive linemen.

The investigator’s 144-page report found that Incognito and two teammates targeted Martin and two other Dolphins employees. While the investigation acknowledged Martin sometimes engaged in “teasing and vulgar banter” with Incognito, the report found that Martin and the other employees were subjected to an almost daily “pattern of harassment” including racial slurs, homophobic comments and “vicious sexual taunts” about Martin’s mother and sister. 

Perhaps most damaging for the Dolphins franchise, the report states some of the offensive line coaches witnessed the behavior, and a coach once took part in the harassment. Last Thursday, the Dolphins announced the termination of offensive line coach Jim Turner and head trainer Kevin O’Neill, who were implicated in the report. The report exonerated Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin and stated he and team management were unaware of the behavior. The report also states the Dolphins have an anti-harassment policy and regular employee training.

This case reminds employers that harassment can occur in any workplace, and the consequences for both employees and organizations can be severe. Like other harassment victims, Martin reported the harassment and bullying caused him depression and anxiety and drove him to contemplate suicide. Workplace harassment negatively affects workplace morale and employee turnover, and often leads to loss of productivity. Effective anti-harassment policies must be enforced by all levels of management, and employers must take prompt corrective action when violations occur.