NFL fining Washington Football Team $10M after review of workplace culture

·4-min read

The NFL is fining the Washington Football Team $10 million following the completion of its investigation into the franchise's culture.

Team owner Dan Snyder released a statement following the NFL's announcement.

The attorneys for 40 former WFT employees also released a statement in response to the league's decision, claiming the NFL chose to "protect owner Dan Snyder" and calling the punishment "truly outrageous."

Review revealed years of 'highly unprofessional' workplace

The NFL's review is a direct result of over 40 women coming forward in 2020 to allege Snyder and Washington executives of serious sexual misconduct spanning multiple years. The women were from numerous parts of the organization and included employees, interns and members of the now-defunct cheerleading squad. They alleged they had experienced sexual harassment and sexual discrimination in the workplace, bullying, intimidation and a hostile work environment.

Beth Wilkinson, the attorney who conducted the review, was originally hired by Snyder to investigate those issues in July 2020. When the NFL took over the investigation a few months later, Wilkinson instead began reporting to the league. She interviewed over 150 people as part of her investigation, including current and former employees. All were released from any confidentiality agreements and were promised there would be no retaliation against them for speaking to her.

Commissioner Roger Goodell reviewed Wilkinson's findings and made the following determination, via the NFL's official release:

Based on Wilkinson's review, the Commissioner concluded that for many years the workplace environment at the Washington Football Team, both generally and particularly for women, was highly unprofessional. Bullying and intimidation frequently took place and many described the culture as one of fear, and numerous female employees reported having experienced sexual harassment and a general lack of respect in the workplace.

Ownership and senior management paid little or no attention to these issues. In some instances, senior executives engaged in inappropriate conduct themselves, including use of demeaning language and public embarrassment. This set the tone for the organization and led to key executives believing that disrespectful behavior and more serious misconduct was acceptable in the workplace. The problems were compounded by inadequate HR staff and practices and the absence of an effectively and consistently administered process for reporting or addressing employee complaints, as well as a widely reported fear of retaliation. When reports were made, they were generally not investigated and led to no meaningful discipline or other response.

The Washington Football Team is being fined $10 million dollars after an NFL investigation found that their workplace had been
The Washington Football Team is being fined $10 million after an NFL investigation found that their workplace had been "highly unprofessional" for many years. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Recommendations for improvement

Wilkinson made 10 recommendations for Washington that will help it continue to improve its workplace culture. While owners and co-CEOs Dan and Tanya Snyder have already made changes to address the issues, they agreed to implement all of Wilkinson's recommendations, including new protocols for reporting harassment, further diversifying the workplace, giving HR more power and establishing a clear disciplinary plan.

For the next two years, the team will have to send routine reports to the NFL detailing the results of new and routine workplace culture surveys as well as any bullying, discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct or retaliation complaints HR has received.

The $10 million the team is being fined will go to organizations that support anti-bullying, and "will also fund programs directed more broadly at improving the workplace, particularly for women and other underrepresented groups, and training and development programs throughout the league, with recipients identified with the assistance of respected third-party advisors." The team is also responsible for paying all expenses of Wilkinson's investigation.

There will also be a temporary change in leadership at the very top of the organization. Tanya Snyder, who was appointed co-CEO earlier this week, will be handling team business for the next few months and possibly longer.

As co-CEO, Tanya Snyder will assume responsibilities for all day-to-day team operations and represent the club at all league meetings and other league activities for at least the next several months. Dan Snyder will concentrate on a new stadium plan and other matters. All senior executives of the club, including Dan and Tanya Snyder, will undertake comprehensive training in workplace conduct and related issues (including bullying, diversity and inclusion, harassment, LGBTQ issues, microaggression, and unconscious bias, among other topics).

This means the NFL is essentially suspending Dan Snyder. It characterized it as "voluntary."

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