As the US House Committee on Oversight & Reform continues to explore the workplace dysfunction within the Washington Commanders organization, the chair of the Committee has identified two specific areas in which legislation would be useful, due to the lessons learned from the Commanders situation.
On Friday, the Committee announced that Rep. Carolyn Maloney introduced legislation aimed at restricting the use of nondisclosure agreements in an employment setting. She also introduced a bill regarding the use of images obtained of employees within the course of their employment.
The two bills introduced today would establish standards for employers to protect workers and encourage them to foster workplace cultures that aim to prevent — rather than conceal — workplace misconduct,” Maloney said. “I strongly believe that those responsible for the culture of harassment and abuse at the Washington Commanders must be held accountable, and that as lawmakers, we must use our legislative powers to protect other employees from this serious misconduct.”
The statement from the Committee also contains an important passage regarding the NFL’s failure to implement a recommendation made by Mary Jo White in the aftermath of the events that resulted in the abrupt sale of the Panthers.
“In 2018, following the NFL’s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination against the then-owner of the Carolina Panthers, Jerry Richardson, the League failed to implement recommendations by an independent investigator to prohibit the use of nondisclosure agreements that ‘limit reporting of potential violations or cooperation in League investigations under the Personal Conduct Policy,’” the Committee said. “As a result, NFL teams such as the Washington Commanders can still use NDAs to evade accountability and silence employees who have experienced or witnessed harassment and discrimination in the workplace.”
Presumably, the league has admitted to the Committee within the confines of the ongoing probe that White’s recommendation was not implemented. Previously, the league had failed to respond to questions regarding whether NDA usage had been limited.
The Accountability for Workplace Misconduct Act, as explained by the Committee, “would safeguard against the abuse of NDAs by prohibiting employers from using these agreements to limit, prevent, or interfere with an employee’s ability to disclose harassment, discrimination, or retaliation to government agencies or Congress.” The law also would create “uniform requirements for employers’ handling of workplace investigations and would improve awareness and transparency of the process for employees.”
The Professional Images Protection Act, per the Committee, “would guard against employer abuse of employee images and ensure that employees have a say in how and when their images are used for business purposes.” This bill flows from the alleged use of outtakes from cheerleader video shoots by team executives.
For those who utter the knee-jerk cry of “Doesn’t Congress have better things to do?” when the House undertakes investigations like this, Congress can indeed do multiple things at once. And these two bills become tangible examples of the potential evolution of employment laws sparked by a specific investigation. in order to limit specific abuses that could be occurring in businesses throughout the nation.