Podcast: How the NFL Flunked HR 101

Hosted by: David Weisenfeld

The National Football League has found itself confronted with a stream of unflattering headlines in recent months that no employer ever wants to face. From film footage of Ray Rice knocking out his wife in an Atlantic City elevator to child abuse charges against Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson and other stories, controversy continues to hound the league. But many of the NFL's wounds have been self-inflicted.

In a new podcast, XpertHR Legal Editor Michael Jacobson joins me to discuss how the NFL flunked HR 101 in a myriad of ways, including a flawed investigation, haphazard discipline and a reactive rather than proactive approach. In reviewing these mistakes, there are lessons employers of all stripes can learn.

Podcast: How the NFL Flunked HR 101

October 14, 2014

"As an employer, you have to collect all of the facts before you make final decisions on employee discipline or termination," says Jacobson. "The league suspended [Ray] Rice first without collecting all the information, and that's really what had fans upset and sponsors ready to walk."

The NFL handed down a widely criticized two-game suspension of Rice, even though it knew he had knocked out his wife in an elevator and pled guilty to that offense. When footage of Rice punching her in the face went viral shortly afterwards, Rice's employer (the Baltimore Ravens) summarily released him and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. According to the Associated Press, the NFL had received the footage of this incident well before issuing the original suspension.

While the NFL is subject to a collective bargaining agreement, private employers may go further in reacting to allegations of criminal conduct. "For employers with a non-unionized workforce, there typically would not be limits on the number of times employers can issue discipline," says Jacobson. "The key is to act in good faith based on the evidence at the employer's disposal." He adds that if other evidence surfaces after the employer issues discipline, it's OK to go back and correct the mistake.