Local lawyer says Jerry Richardson's allegations should be a wake up call

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A local lawyer believes business owners should pay attention to what is happening with the investigation of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson as it relates to allegations of harassment in the workplace.

Rachel Matesis is with Marcellino and Tyson Law Firm. She says her clients have been reaching out to her since reports of allegations Richardson sexually harassed employees and used racial slurs broke out.

"I think it is a great time for businesses and business owners to take stock and review their policies and procedures," Matesis said. "To make sure they are setting their expectations for management. Make sure they are treating employees with the respect they deserve."

Matesis also says with workplace harassment making headlines, business leaders must be sensitive and urgent in the way they handle allegations. If those allegations go all the way to the courts, it may be hard for companies to defend themselves against the victims.

"You always have to be concerned about what the environment of the jury is going to look like and a jury today is probably made up of different thoughts of sexual harassment workplace than just six months ago," she said.

Published reports show Richardson and the Panthers payed off several employees after they complained of sexual harassment and other misconduct in the workplace. Those payments were made to keep victims quiet, but details have gotten out.

Matesis says maybe the situation wasn't taken care of after the money was paid.

"They're not fixing the problem and it creates an environment where a journalist can come in and there are a lot of disgruntled people who had complaints that weren't taken seriously. They are ready to think about breaching those non-disclosure agreements," Matesis said.

Matesis says it's up to the Panthers to keep the employees who were paid money to live up to the agreement, but that could look bad on the organization.

"You also have to think about what the publicity ramifications will be there," Matesis said.  "To try to enforce those confidentiality provisions."

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