Rice was forced to resign recently after a videotape was leaked to the public and showed him verbally and physically abusing players, while using homophobic slurs.
In his letter of resignation letter to Rutger’s President Robert L. Barchi, Athletic Director Tim Pernetti writes:
“As you know, my first instincts when I saw the videotape of Coach Rice’s behavior was to fire him immediately. However, Rutgers decided to follow a process involving university lawyers, human resources professionals and outside counsel. Following review of the independent investigative report, the consensus was that university policy would not justify dismissal.”
Corporate Counsel reports that the outside counsel, Attorney John Lacey, an attorney with Connell Foley of Roseland, NJ, issued a report in January stating that Rice could not be fired “for cause.” because there was no clear violation of his employment contract.
Lacey found that Rice was extremely demanding of his assistant coaches and players but that his behavior did not constitute “a ‘hostile work environment’ as that term is understood under Rutgers’ anti-discrimination policies.” Lacy said the “intensity” of Rice’s misconduct may have breached provisions in his contract against embarrassing the school but, as Rutgers officials conveniently point out, did not recommend termination.
The conclusion of the so-called independent investigation once again raises questions about these so-called independent investigations.
Increasingly, employers hire outside parties to “investigate” claims of workplace abuse. There often is an unstated expectation that the result of the investigation will affirm the employer’s goal of retaining the valued bully while insulating the employer from a potential lawsuit if the less valued target files a lawsuit. Too often the so-called independent investigators are attorneys who place themselves in the position of appearing to be for sale to the highest bidder.
The videotape is so shocking that it defies reason that any “independent” investigator could reasonably conclude that Rice’s behavior did not justify dismissal. In fact, some of the basketball players could have filed criminal assault complaints against Rice for physically manhandling them. Instead of dismissing Rice, Rutgers fined him $50,000 and suspended him for three games in December.
Just as in the Penn State scandal involving pedophile football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, Rutgers appears to have tolerated Rice’s bad behavior.
After the videotape was leaked, the dominos began to fall. Rice was fired. Assistant Coach Jeremy Martelli, Rutger’s General Counsel John Wolf, and Pernetti resigned. If I were Barchi, I wouldn’t make plans to redecorate the Presidential suite. Barchi’s claim that he never took the time to watch the videotape.until it was made public was met with obvious disdain at a press conference. Barchi blamed his bad decision on a “failure of process.”
Here is what needs to happen so that employers will take workplace bullying seriously – managers need to be held accountable.
These student athletes are essentially workers who are paid in the form of scholarship assistance by the university. Like any other worker, they know that a complaint can result in retaliation and their termination. These players relied upon their unofficial employer, Rutgers, to insure they were treated with dignity and respect and certainly not subjected to emotional and p physical abuse.
Most of the players just put up with Rice’s abuse. However, according to news reports, at least three players transferred from the program as a result of Rice’s abuse.