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How Many Richie Incognitos Are In Your Workplace?

Randy Freking

In recent days, we have learned that a 290 pound NFL offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins, Jonathan Martin, was reluctant to complain about obnoxious, racist bullying by a teammate, and instead chose to take a leave of absence. Only after the Dolphins – his employer – claimed that the leave was unrelated to the behavior of teammates did Martin’s agent complain to the NFL and expose the Dolphins’ claimed innocence as an attempted cover up of behavior that has no place in any workplace.

And today we learned that Dolphin coaches told Incognito to “toughen up” Martin during the spring, which was followed by the racist voicemail message. And the Dolphins didn’t know about it?

If a 290 pound offensive lineman is afraid to complain to the team’s coach, general manager, or the owner, why do so many people not understand why everyday workers are afraid to complain about similar treatment in ordinary workplaces? And why do so many co-workers who observe or know of the behavior not do something? The short answer: ordinary workers fear retaliation for making complaints.

When Martin suddenly left the team last week, he did not complain about the use of vulgar racial epithets because he was afraid it would short curcuit his NFL career; much less powerful workers – the minimum wage single mother and every other employee who relies upon a steady paycheck – often fear complaints will fall on deaf ears or result in a cover up, much like the Dolphins initially attempted.

We applaud the Dolphins for suspending the bully Richie Incognito, but they did so only after it was clear that the agent for Martin was not going to allow the Dolphins to claim a lack of knowledge and bury the issue. It is hard to imagine that Dolphin players and coaches did not know why Martin left, but the Dolphins did nothing until Martin’s agent made the complaint.  Was it because Incognito was an All-Pro and the Dolphins were prepared to allow his bullying at the expense of Martin?

How many other racist or sexist Richie Incognitos are known in American workplaces but are tolerated because they drive financial results? We hear stories frequently from employees who experience bullying behavior from co-workers or supervisors but are afraid to report the abuse. But they also believe that their companies often are aware of the problem, choose to tolerate it, and are prepared to claim a lack of knowledge while invoking a defense of “she should have complained.”

Let’s hope that other employers learn the lesson that known bullying in any form, much less racial or sexual bullying, should never be tolerated even if the victim feels powerless to complain. The Dolphins should have dealt with their bully long before Martin felt compelled to leave the team.

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Ohio Minimum Wage – Workers Receive Pay Increase

Randy Freking

For minimum wage workers who work for an Ohio employer with annual gross revenue greater than $292,000, will receive a minimum wage increase on January 1, 2014.  The new minimum wage in Ohio will be $7.95 per hour a .10 increase.  “Tip” employees will see their minimum wage increase from $3.93 per hour to $3.98 per hour plus tips.

For smaller employers, the federal minimum wage is currently at $7.25 per hour.  The federal minimum wage has not changed since July, 2009.

Click here for a copy of the 2014 Ohio Minimum Wage poster.

 

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Are Women Unfairly Passed Over for Promotions?

Randy Freking

A new Gallup Poll in August found that 15% of working women say they have at some point felt passed over for a promotion or opportunity at work because of their gender.  Similarly, 13% feel that their gender has played a role in being denied a raise.

The results of the Poll were similar when accounting for age, education, and type of employment.

Some may ask why the numbers – 15% or even 13% – are not higher?  One researcher after another have revealed that men are favored for jobs even when male and female candidates are equally – or even identically – qualified.  Meanwhile, other research finds that men continue to get bigger raises than women, even when women ask for them.

One explanation for the relatively low percentages is that almost half of all employees work in “sex segregated” jobs, or occupations that are predominately male or female.  For example, a nurse may not compare herself to an engineer – she is comparing herself to other nurses, many of whom are female.

For more information regarding new evidence on gender differences in promotions and pay, visit  The Digest from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

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Can My Boss Do That?

Randy Freking

Labor Day, the worker’s holiday.  It is designed to honor the contributions made by America’s workers.  Do you have issues at work?  Attorney Randy Freking will be answering your employment questions on Moore Law.  Moore Law is a live local call-in show hosted by Deb Haas and Attorney Don Moore. The show airs Monday, September 2nd at 9:30 a.m. on WXIX Fox 19.  To learn more about Moore Law click here.

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United States Senator Explains “The Dwindling Jury”

Randy Freking

On June 10, United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, a member of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee and a former U.S. Attorney, wrote an article that explains how the Supreme Court and Congress have watered down the Constitution’s guarantee of a right to a civil jury trial.

Many of our clients are surprised to learn that judges have the discretion to dismiss cases prior to trial, despite the Constitutional guarantee, and that many cases are forced into mandatory arbitration to be decided by one or more arbitrators rather than juries.

Unfortunately, many politicians who claim to be “strict constructionists” of the United States Constitution have failed to take any action to prevent the erosion of your constitutional right to a jury trial.

For a more complete analysis, see this link.

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