The Proper Place? Using the Workplace to Punish for Family Violence

By: Katelyn Davis

Jose Reyes, Ardolis Chapman, and Hector Olivera all have something unique in common besides being Major League Baseball players: all three received sanctions for committing acts of domestic violence following the implementation of Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy.[1] The policy aims to address instances of domestic violence between players and their partners.[2] In addition to training, education, and intervention, the policy requires the Commissioner’s Office to immediately place all players involved with domestic violence on administrative leave and investigate any allegations of domestic violence regardless of whether the allegations result in criminal charges. The Commissioner then decides a punishment including a multi-game suspension, fine, mandatory counseling, and donations to charity.[3]

Jose Reyes, player for the Colorado Rockies, received a 51 game suspension in May 2016, which cost him about $7.09 million out of $22 million yearly contract.[4] He will also submit to counseling and donate $100,00 to a domestic violence charity.[5]  Hector Olivera, player for the Atlanta Braves, received an 81 game suspension for a domestic violence incident on April 13, 2016 when he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault and battery in Arlington, VA.[6]  Finally, Aroldis Chapman received a 30 game suspension and lost about $1.7 million for the season.[7]

Because this policy marks a significant departure from the traditional realm of domestic violence prevention and enforcement, it requires a feminist analysis to understand if it will achieve its goals.[8] The MLB domestic violence policy requires a feminist analysis not because it outwardly harms women, in fact the policy seems to bolster women and address domestic violence in an a successful manner. The policy requires this analysis because the policy locates a remedy for domestic violence in private employment law, and from the beginning of the battered women’s movement, advocates fought for legal remedies located in public criminal law.             The MLB policy places a remedy within private employment law governed by federal regulation and contract law rather than state criminal law. On an individual level, the MLB policy is certainly “good” for women because in addition to connecting victims with resources, the policy potentially accomplishes these goals better than existing civil and criminal remedies.[9] Many advocates, policy makers, sociologists have questioned the effectiveness of criminal remedies because only half of arrests lead to prosecution, and temporary orders tend to go unenforced or are violated meaning that most victims experience violence after the initial reporting.[10] First, the MLB policy provides a complete alternative to the criminal justice system and eliminates some of the existing problems, such as victim blaming and bias, because the MLB policy focuses solely on the abuser and his conduct.[11] Second, the MLB policy streamlines the deterrence effect traditionally associated with criminal punishment because it immediately affects players by reducing their income and affecting future employment prospects.[12] The player sees immediate consequences for his actions, which might make him less likely to engage in violent acts toward his partner in the future.

However, american society continues to see marriage and intimate partners as a private relationship between two people outside of state control and regulation.[13]  The MLB policy fails to appreciate and address these social realities because although it acknowledges the gravity of these significant social issues and that domestic violence has no place in our society, it does not mention why battering happens, why is it so prevalent, and why society should care to address it. The policy is entirely uncritical of the social structures that produced the need for it in the first place because no one questioned the implications of replacing existing criminal and civil remedies with remedies in employment law.[14] Additionally, the policy nor its advocates question the implications of the policy as a replacement for existing criminal and civil remedies and the need for this replacement. Therefore, the MLB policy provides the perfect window into the issues surrounding combatting domestic violence and the various legal remedies available to victims because the policy represents a new attempt at trying to address the problem but also implicates existing legal regimes.


[1] See Paul Hagen, MLB, MLBPA Agree on Domestic Violence Policy, MLB News, (August 21, 2015), www.http://m.mlb.com/news/article/144508842/mlb-mlbpa-agree-on-domestic-violence-policy.

[2] See id. (including a provision in the collective bargaining agreement between the Major League Baseball Players Association and management with the policy terms).

[3] See id. (stating “the Commissioner Office’s will investigate all allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse in the Baseball community. Consistent with the parties’ Collective Bargaining Agreement, the player and the player’s Association shall cooperate in the investigation.”).

[4] See Jeff Todd, Jose Reyes Suspended Through May 31 Under Domestic Violence Policy, MLB Trade Rumors, (May 13, 2016), www.mlbtraderumors.com/2016/05/jose-reyes-suspended-through-may-31.

[5] See id.

[6] See Staff, Hector Olivera Suspended for 82 Games for Violating MLB’s Domestic Violence Policy, Fox Sports South, (May 26, 2016), http://www.foxsports.com/south/story/braves-hector-olivera-suspended-82-games-for-violating-mlb-s-domestic-violence-policy-052616.

[7] See Paul Hagan and Brian Hoch, Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman Gets 30 Game Suspension from MLB, MLBNews, (March 1, 2016), http://m.mlb.com/news/article/165860226/yankees-aroldis-chapman-suspended-30-games.

[8] See generally, Katherine Bartlett, Feminist Legal Methods in Foundations: Feminist Legal Theory 550, 551-56 (Kelly Weisberg ed., 1993) (defining a feminist analysis as “how the law fails to take into account the experiences and values of women, or how existing legal standards and concepts might disadvantage women”).

[9] See generally, Albert Roberts ed., Handbook of Domestic Violence Intervention and Strategies: Polices, Programs and Legal Remedies (2002) (including civil protection orders, tort claims, and criminal charges for assault or battery).

[10] See generally, Cheryl Hanna, No Right to Choose: Mandated Victim Participation in Domestic Violence Prosecutions, 109 Harv. L. Rev. 1850, 1857-65 (1996) (discussing the rise of mandatory arrest policies following the Thurman case and the subsequent demand for prosecution but noting difficulties such as victim noncooperation, reluctance and refusal) ; Susan L. Keilitz et al, Civil Protection Orders: The Benefits and Limitations for Victims of Domestic Violence, in Domestic Violence: From a Private Matter to a Federal Offense Vol. 3, 49, 59-63 (Patricia Barnes, ed., 1998) (studying the effectiveness of civil protection orders in reducing repeat violence in three jurisdictions and finding that the repeat instances of violence decreased but “comprehensive relief has not been achieved”)

[11] See Paul Hagen, MLB, MLBPA Agree on Domestic Violence Policy, MLB News, (August 21, 2015), www.http://m.mlb.com/news/article/144508842/mlb-mlbpa-agree-on-domestic-violence-policy.

[12] See generally, Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman Gets 30 Game Suspension From MLB (losing $1.7 million in wages): Hector Olivera Suspended for 82 Games for Violating MLB’s Domestic Violence Policy (losing $4.3 million in wages from approximately $8.6 million).

[13] See Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 578 (finding the state must respect petitioner’s private lives); Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 486 (using contraception in marriage “concerns a relationship lying within the zone of privacy created by several fundamental constitutional guarantees”).

[14] See generally, Paul Hagen, MLB, MLBPA Agree on Domestic Violence Policy, MLB News, (August 21, 2015), www.http://m.mlb.com/news/article/144508842/mlb-mlbpa-agree-on-domestic-violence-policy.