After Jonathan Martin left the Miami Dolphins due to alleged bullying and racist and threatening messages from teammate Richie Incognito, fans ask: will Martin sue Incognito and the Dolphins, or walk away to continue his NFL career?
Martin, only a second year player in the NFL, has a long career ahead of him. However, filing a lawsuit against the Dolphins could bring that promising career to a screeching halt. Other NFL teams may not be receptive to bringing on a new player after a very public and expensive legal battle with his former team. To that end, if Martin is unwilling to continue a career in professional football, a lawsuit against the Dolphins might be a good play.
Martin can potentially sue the Dolphins, claiming a hostile work environment. A claim of harassment that causes a hostile work environment requires Martin to prove several elements, including (1) he is a member of a statutorily protected class, (2) he was subject to unwanted verbal or physical conduct related to his membership in that protected class and (3) the unwanted conduct affected a condition of employment and/or had the effect of unreasonably interfering with his work performance or creating an intimidating or hostile work environment.
Martin may also consider bringing a lawsuit for intentional infliction of emotional distress. To succeed on the claim, Martin would have to prove that there was a reckless or intentional effort to cause him extreme, severe distress and that the conduct was offensive. The Dolphins could be held liable for Incognito’s actions under the doctrine of vicarious liability, which states that an employer can be held liable for certain conduct of those under its control.
While Martin may have some valid legal claims, his next play hinges on his future career plans.