Harassment’s Net Income Losses in Business and at Work

When I conduct Harassment Awareness Training for clients’ organizations, I always outline the negative financial impact that harassment can have on all involved: those harmed by the harassment; the responsible party; and the responsible party’s employer.  Mileage can vary on the moral and values fronts, muddying the understanding of the negative and often devastating impact of workplace harassment.  The impact of harassment on cold hard cash flow, however, is the great and crystal-clear equalizer.

The recent coverage involving Miami Dolphins (former) teammates Richie Incognito (the responsible party) and Jonathan Martin (the harmed individual) is a real-life example of the cumulative financial damage that both individuals and organizations can incur when harassment is condoned unchecked.

In the Miami Dolphins case, where the responsible party Incognitio conveniently documented his racial and sexual-orientation slurs in both voicemail recordings and text messages to the harmed party, Martin, the financial losses are racking and stacking up:

  • Martin left the team on October 28th, 2013; and it’s unclear whether he plans on returning to his job as a player with the Miami Dolphins or not.  (The National Football League has interviewed Martin as part of their investigation, but the Miami Dolphins franchise has not yet conducted a similar interview with Martin).  And at this writing, Martin does not have another job lined up (although he has stated that he looks forward to resuming his NFL career), which will definitely affect his financial situation.
  • As reported in the ESPN article referenced at the above link, Incognito was suspended indefinitely by the Dolphins on Sunday night (November 10, 2013) for conduct detrimental to the team. Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reported Monday that the team plans to cut ties with him. “He’s done,” a team source told the newspaper. “There are procedures in place, and everyone wants to be fair. The NFL is involved. But from a club perspective he’ll never play another game here.” In a statement announcing his suspension, the Dolphins said, “we believe in maintaining a culture of respect for one another and as a result we believe this decision is in the best interest of the organization at this time. As we noted earlier, we reached out to the NFL to conduct an objective and thorough review. We will continue to work with the league on this matter.”  Indefinite suspension, and the stigma of his slurs do not augur well for Incognito’s continued personal cash flow.  In addition, a new Florida law may portend additional financial difficulties for Incognito.  A Florida law — Evidencing Prejudice While Committing Offense — provides the legal foundation for a civil lawsuit that would seek to assess monetary damages against Incognito. It provides for money damages for anyone who “has been intimidated or threatened” on the basis of “race or color.” News accounts indicate there is little doubt Incognito has been threatening and intimidating Martin for many months, and that a portion of his attacks were based on race.
  • The impact on the Miami Dolphins franchise has had both immediate and potentially long-term financial effects as well, especially from a reputation standpoint:  Martin did not identify Incognito as the source of his unhappiness out of fear of retribution (from the Miami Dolphins management team) and not wanting to roll over on his teammates, according to league sources.  And while the legal and financial exposure to the Miami Dolphins may (or may not) be somewhat mitigated by the fact that Martin did not pursue the Dolphins’ internal due process / complaint procedures (and hopefully those due process / complaint procedures are documented for the franchise’s sake) first with his complaint, the reputational damage (and consequently, financial damage) to the franchise, especially in the eyes of their fans and both current and future players, is already done.  In addition:  the loss of these two players is at minimum a factor in the Dolphins’ recent game losses.

There are also gifts in the sad losses of this situation:  the thoughtful insights coming from the mainstream sports media, usually the discretionary-power bully pulpit: It’s instructive to note how this story morphed from a tale of one power imbalance to another. It started with talk of extortion — rookies being forced to pay $30,000 for a team dinner and Martin paying $15,000 for a Vegas trip he didn’t even take part in — to one of racism and viciousness and vile threats. Also instructive to note: how Incognito went from a bullying Twitter rant professing his innocence — give the man this much: he stays in the same gear — to radio silence after the revelation that Martin saved voice mails and text messages. 

How will you avoid harassment’s net income losses this week, in business and at work?



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