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Sterling Employment Law

Could NFL teams be violating employment discrimination laws?

Fans of the Detroit Lions are paying close attention to the team and the National Football League this time of year. While the regular season doesn't begin until after Labor Day, this is the time of year when NFL teams determine what their squads will look like in the fall: some veteran players are released, some free agents are signed, and teams interview potential draft picks to determine if they might like to call their names when the draft takes place this spring.

However, this interview process is not without controversy. Teams have long tried to gain an edge by asking prospects just about any question under the sun, even those seemingly unrelated to the job of playing football. Now, a state attorney general says he is reminding the league commissioner that teams may be skirting the line of what might constitute workplace discrimination with some of their questions.

One potential draftee told a radio station in an interview that officials from one team asked him questions about his personal life, such as if he had a girlfriend or if he was gay. The New York attorney general decided to warn the league -- whose corporate offices are in New York -- that such questions could violate discrimination laws regarding hiring based on sexual orientation.

The executive director of the players' association agreed that the questions were out of bounds and if they did not violate the law, probably did violate terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players.

Source: USA Today, "N.Y. attorney general turns up heat on NFL," Lindsay H. Jones, March 14, 2013

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