In 1987, a young lawyer out of Harvard Law School and working for a prestigious Washington, D.C., firm volunteered to investigate a restaurant for refusing to hire waitresses or allow blacks to work outside the kitchen.
When the legal dust settled, the restaurant, Martin's Tavern (unrelated to the family), paid a settlement, agreed to change its hiring policies and the attorney, Jane Howard-Martin, continued down a path toward becoming a nationally prominent employment lawyer.
All these years later, as Miami Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin's saga swirls under a national spotlight, the only definitive point in a confusing period of "he-said-they-said" is the Dolphins couldn't have tangled with a player better equipped for the involved legal and ethical implications.
Martin simply had to turn to his mom, Howard-Martin, to ask whether the volatile workplace that led to his leaving the team met legal standards.
Howard-Martin now is a corporate lawyer for Toyota in Los Angeles. But for nearly two decades she litigated employment-law cases, spoke at legal symposiums as an expert on the subject and wrote articles for legal journals with ambitious headlines like, "A Critical Analysis of Judicial Opinions in Professional Employment Discrimination Cases."
She also wrote a cautionary USA Today article in 2002 that applies directly to her son's current issue. Its headline: "Stop workplace harassment in your company."
One of this issue's many uncertainties remain whether it ends with the ongoing NFL investigation or in a courtroom as part of a potentially multimillion-dollar lawsuit. Experts in Howard-Martin's former field say such a landmark case of the football culture is possible, even building.
Martin's mother, the daughter of two college professors, is more than comfortable dealing with employment issues at the center of this storm. She was professionally raised in this exact world of employment concerns and expensive lawsuits.
"She's a great person, a great lawyer and this is her playing field,'' said an attorney who worked with Martin in the employment-law field but declined to be named.
Howard-Martin, who could not be reached for comment, rose to a partner in the Pittsburgh law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius. She dealt in a broad palate of employment law from sexual harassment to disability laws.
She became part of the involved community, elected to the Urban League board of directors and the executive committee of the American Arbitration Association.
Her expertise led to writing a regular column at USA Today, where she was introduced as having, "practiced employment law for 15 years with a focus on employment discrimination litigation, human resources counseling and workplace training."http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2013-1 ... i-dolphins