Last Monday, the Orioles made headlines for more than just their 5-2 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Orioles player Adam Jones reported that Red Sox fans called him a racial slur several times and threw a bag of peanuts at him as he was entering the dugout. Police reportedly ejected 34 people, including the person who threw the bag of peanuts. The Red Sox, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred all condemned the fans’ behavior.
The following day, fans welcomed Jones with a standing ovation at Fenway Park before his first at-bat. Despite recent hostility that has arisen between the two teams after Manny Machado injured Boston’s Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox starter Chris Sale stepped off the mound on Tuesday to allow more time for Jones’ ovation. In addition, Jones thanked two Boston players, Mookie Betts and David Price, for their supportive text messages. African-American players for other teams also have come forward about their experiences with being called racial slurs by fans during games.
While we typically think of harassment in the workplace as occurring between two employees, Jones’ experience is an example of how important it is to be vigilant about the reprehensible behavior of non-employees. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on various protected categories, including race. As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has explained, “Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances . . . . The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee . . . . The employer will be liable for harassment by non-supervisory employees and non-employees over whom it has control (e.g., independent contractors or customers on the premises), if it knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.”
Some important steps employers can take to prevent harassment in the workplace include, but are not limited to:
- Establishing anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies with complaint procedures;
- Communicating those policies and procedures to all employees;
- Training supervisors on what to do when an employee complains; and
- Taking prompt and appropriate corrective action to address employee concerns.
In the meantime, let us take to heart these two teams’ classy showing of solidarity and mutual respect. Let this be an example to us of, not only good sportsmanship, but also the importance of treating each other with dignity and following the Golden Rule.