A professional cheerleader has filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging discrimination by the New Orleans Saints and the National Football League (NFL). Some Pennsylvania residents may be surprised to learn the manner in which at least one pro football organization enforces workplace rules.
Like many organizations, the New Orleans Saints have rules against fraternization. According to a cheerleader who lost her job with the organization, the manner in which the Saints enforce their policy is discriminatory. Team rules say cheerleaders and players should not interact or socialize. According to the twenty-two-year-old the policy extends to social media and occasions where cheerleaders and NFL players coincidentally find themselves eating at the same restaurants. Cheerleaders are required by the Saints to have private social media profiles and block players from contacting them. If a player enters a restaurant where a cheerleader is dining, according to the woman, the cheerleader is required to leave the premises. Players are not penalized for contacting and pursuing interactions with cheerleaders. According to the woman and other cheerleaders, the stated reason for the policies is to protect cheerleaders from players, although the burden is placed completely on the cheerleaders to identify and weed out any attempted social media requests from players, even under assumed identities.
Federal and state employment laws ban discrimination in workplace policies based on race, gender, color, religion, age, or ethnicity. Even if a policy is even on its face, but has a disparate impact on a protected class of people, it can be considered discriminatory. Most NFL teams have rules against fraternization, but it is unknown if other teams follow the same enforcement procedures as the Saints.
Employment laws are designed to provide equal footing in the workplace for people of all races, genders, and religious backgrounds. Consulting an employment lawyer about suspected workplace discrimination might provide guidance and peace of mind regarding options for concerned employees.