Martin's legal options limited in Dolphin case

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 19, 2014 at 6:26 pm •  Published: February 19, 2014

MIAMI (AP) — The legal options for offensive lineman Jonathan Martin may be limited under workplace discrimination and harassment laws because an NFL-ordered investigation found that neither Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin nor the Miami Dolphins' top executives knew about the bullying he endured, labor law experts say.

Martin told Ted Wells, the investigator appointed by the NFL, that he never reported repeated harassment at the hands of fellow lineman Richie Incognito and two others. Wells found that Martin "did his best to honor" an unwritten "Judas" code against snitching on fellow players.

Because his employer was apparently unaware of the problems, it would be more difficult for Martin to win a workplace harassment lawsuit against the team, said Miami labor attorney Michael Landen. And in some cases, Martin seemed to go along in a bid to fit in.

"He seemed to participate and he didn't report it to anyone at the Dolphins. When he did report it, the Dolphins took immediate action by suspending Incognito," Landen said Wednesday. "They have some strength to their case because they did have procedures in place and upon reporting it they took immediate action."

Indeed, the Wells report found the Dolphins had clear, written policies against workplace harassment or discrimination and that Philbin "embraced this philosophy and frequently reminded the team to be respectful" throughout the season. The team's policy said harassment included "jokes, comments and antics; generalizations and put-downs; pornographic or suggestive literature and language." And the policy extended to texts and emails.

The report also found no basis to believe allegations that the Dolphins management encouraged Incognito's actions in an effort to "toughen up" the 6-foot-5, 312-pound Martin. Incognito and others, the report said, threatened to rape Martin's sister, called him a long list of racial slurs and bullied him for not being "black enough," among other things.

Incognito's attorney has denied that his client or any other Dolphins' offensive linemen bullied Martin.

If Martin did pursue legal action, University of Miami law professor David Abraham said the remedies are limited. Workers in discrimination and harassment cases frequently seek reinstatement to their jobs and back pay, he said. In Martin's case, the Dolphins continued to honor their contract with him after he abruptly left the team in October.

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