Fantasy Football Turns Into Firing Nightmare

Cameron loved his job at Fidelity, but he also had a hankering for fantasy football, and the latter canceled out the former when he was canned for managing the league in the office, FanNation reports.

Cameron insists he was wrongfully terminated because several others in the office, including managers, got off with warnings. FanNation writes that Cameron is now stuck with a gambling stigma that will hurt his job prospects:

Despite his appeals to Fidelity, Pettigrew was labeled with a stain on the Termination Explanation of his U5 form (Uniform Termination Notice for Securities Industry Regulation) … VIOLATION OF COMPANY GAMBLING POLICY INVOLVING FANTASY FOOTBALL.

“They see the word gambling and it’s as though I am toxic,” said (Cameron), who made note of the tough economy. “I have been blackballed in my industry.”

Fantasy football freaks out there, do you tinker with your rosters on the job? How do you hide it from your bosses?


Fired Over Fantasy Football: The Unfortunate Case of Cameron Pettigrew
[FanHouse]

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  1. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Clearly, this guy hasn’t watched the Mosbius Designs episode of How I Met Your Mother, or else he’d know the dangers of being “sports guy” at the office.

    I actually thought it was pretty common for employees to form fantasy football teams and play against one another. Is it not?

    I’m guessing where it veers into HR-nightmare territory is if it a) involves money and b) is not something in which the HR people or upper management participate in. At one of my last jobs, during March Madness, one of the agenda points in our weekly meeting was actually an update of who was winning the NCAA bracket contest in the office, and in between the meetings, we would have periodic updates e-mailed to us by the person who was in charge of tallying the scores.

    Here I thought it built office morale.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      In a lot of states, March Madness brackets, if there’s money involved, are actually illegal (or sometimes require you to get a license from the state!). EVERYONE does them, but that doesn’t mean it’s legal; I’d weigh my pros and cons real carefully before participating in that sort of thing at the office … even if everyone is doing it, if it’s illegal or against company policy, you’ve given them a justification for firing you if they want to get rid of you for whatever reason.

      Not to blame the OP — very unfair if others were playing and he was the only one fired — but those kinds of things at the office make me very, very nervous.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Huh. It didn’t occur to me about the money part. None of the ones at any of my offices have been overly formal or involved money. It was usually bragging rights, and extremely casual. And AFAIK, there was no company policy on it.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          yeah, i wasn’t thinking that either. around here it’s college basketball and involves having to be photographed in the other team’s jersey, not cash.

      • tbax929 says:

        The Hartford insurance runs a March Madness contest every year for its agents. I made sure it was okay with management at my former agency before I participated, just to be on the safe side.

      • pop top says:

        In Michigan w/r/t workplaces, it’s illegal if it’s over a certain amount, I think $5. There has been some talk about changing the law to make it a higher amount, like $20 or $30, because like you said, EVERYONE does it and it’s silly to criminalize something like an office pool.

    • craptastico says:

      they probably wanted to fire him for other reasons and just used this as an excuse.

      • craptastico says:

        never mind. it looks like he was doing very well. a reminder to myself to withhold all comments until i’m done reading the original article

    • varro says:

      Somehow I see Angela from The Office as the person responsible for this, considering it’s Texas.

      And somehow I don’t see chain e-mails about how Obama is TEH DEBBIL getting people fired there.

  2. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    I don’t blame them for firing him if he broke a company policy. Maybe he shouldn’t have been breaking rules and gambling on company time if he wanted to keep his job so badly. I have no sympathy for this guy. And who cares about what happened to the other people? Maybe they weren’t as douchey as Cameron.

    • Shadowfire says:

      It matters. If they received warnings, and he was terminated, there is a major issue there, and he has a case against Fidelity. If you are going to discipline people for a violation, you need to make the discipline uniform.

  3. PeterLeppik says:

    Sorry, but I don’t have much sympathy….the article says that the company had a policy and had sent out an e-mail reminder that Fantasy Football wasn’t allowed on company time, but “nobody at the site took it seriously.”

    Well, I guess they’ll take it seriously now.

    It doesn’t matter if the policy is rational–as long as you’re on company time on company premises, you should follow any legal and clearly stated company policy. When the company takes the extra step of reminding everyone about the policy, you should be on notice that they really mean it. This is a tough lesson for someone early in his career, and he’ll probably never work in the securities industry again. But geez, what do you expect?

    • tbax929 says:

      Agreed. Companies use double standards all the time when applying their policies. But if it’s company policy and he’d been warned about it, I don’t think his termination was wrongful.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      “When the company takes the extra step of reminding everyone about the policy, you should be on notice that they really mean it. This is a tough lesson for someone early in his career, and he’ll probably never work in the securities industry again.”

      Also, when you’re early in your career, even though everyone else in the office is surfing porn, YOU are not the guy surfing porn when there’s been an e-mail reminding everyone not to surf porn. Or whatever.

    • jesusofcool says:

      I’ve seen a lot of people surf the web/do various things inappropriate on company time, but you need to use discretion and know where you stand in the company. He deliberately ignored a warning for the company, and as the lowest guy on the totem poll, they decided to make him an example. Sucks for him, but I agree, it’s not necessarily wrongful termination.
      Though if other people were doing it, it seems harsh to use the word gambling on his termination form, especially since that word has so many negative connotations beyond fantasy football. Would have been very human of them to write it down as “Repeated Misuse of Company Time” or something.

    • jayphat says:

      Since everyone was breaking the rule I am gonna explain this as my old boss the southern would say it:
      /southern accent
      “You see, the problem is your people acting like this are like ducks on a pound. They are content just sitting there, doing the same thing. To get them to move, sometimes you gotta shoot one duck.”

      You were the example. Sorry it had to be you OP but it had to be someone.

    • Sneeje says:

      All sense of fairness goes out the window when you put yourself at risk. We all do it sometimes, but we all also find it very hard to swallow when consequences don’t occur uniformly and may even occur randomly.

      If you speed often it may happen that you get three tickets and your neighbor that also speeds gets none. If you step out on a crosswalk in front of a fast moving car, you might get hit–matters not that the driver is “liable”.

      I believe this is why we get so many lawsuits–culturally we’re moving away from the idea of personal responsibility.

      Judge: Wrongful termination, huh?
      Him: Yep!
      Judge: Was there an office policy against doing fantasy football at work?
      Him: Uh, I guess.
      Judge: Were you informed about it?
      Him: Uh, I guess.
      Judge: Why are we here again?

      • halfcuban says:

        Except this is a clear situation where the investigators KNEW all the individuals involved, and yet did not apply the rules equally. Unlike your examples of a speeding ticket, which would require an officer to be present and witness the offense, the investigators in this case knew the extent of all the offenders. That IS unfair, and reeks of opportunistic firing. There are many individuals who have been fired for discriminatory and unjustified reasons by using an alternative reasoning as the initial excuse.

        • Sneeje says:

          Sorry don’t buy it. The OP acted in a way contrary to company policy. Personally, I don’t care if the HR department threw a dart against the wall to pick employees to fire today and figure out the reason after the fact.

          The bottom line is that the OP put themselves at risk by bucking the company rules, regardless of whether or not the company witnessed the behavior, saw other people doing it, picked a name out of a hat or other reason. For all we know this was a first offense for everyone else and the fired employee had other smirches on his record.

    • varro says:

      I don’t have much sympathy….for Fidelity.

      The securities industry IS gambling. It’s making a decision based on incomplete information and analyzing risk.

      I see a d-bag Christofascist supervisor at the helm. Remember, it’s Texas.

  4. FatLynn says:

    Honestly, if other people got warnings and he got the boot, they were looking for a reason to fire him anyway.

    • magstheaxe says:

      “Honestly, if other people got warnings and he got the boot, they were looking for a reason to fire him anyway.”

      My thoughts exactly.

    • seth_lerman says:

      Or he got fired cause his participation was worse than the others. He was managing it, not just playing.

      On a legal basis that possibly makes him guilty of “bookmaking” where the other people were just players.

    • MaytagRepairman says:

      Maybe, though I’ve always worked for employers that made it clear that my employment was at-will and could be terminated for no cause at all.

    • varro says:

      Or a way to reduce payroll at that office and not have to pay extra unemployment insurance.

      It’s easy for an employer to fabricate “misconduct” to avoid paying unemployment…

  5. chocobo says:

    I have no problem whatsoever with firing the guy. It’s not right to include the word “gambling” in his U5 form though.

    The guy screwed up and got fired, isn’t that enough? You don’t need to effectively ban him from getting a comparable job in the future by including a misleading word that will make employers think he was running a casino in the office or has a serious gambling problem.

    • jpmoney says:

      I’ll admin I haven’t read TFA, but did his fantasy football league have any money involved? Some leagues have a pot to win while others are simply for fun and in that case it would make a big difference.

    • pop top says:

      There’s a $20 buy-in involved, which would lead one to assume that at some point, someone wins the money, so yes, that would be considered gambling.

    • RandomHookup says:

      At least they mentioned Fantasy Football. Just leaving it as “gambling” would look even worse for someone involved in managing money.

  6. Megladon says:

    If its anything like the supervisors I had at my last job, where they would only spend 6-8 hours a day out of a 12 hour shift doing things related to their FF teams I can totaly side with the company for tossing him out.

    • varro says:

      Spending that much time analyzing fantasy football is ridiculous. I may spend 5 minutes a week on my lineup and transactions a week, and I went 11-3 this year and am seeded first.

      It’s not like you’re a real GM having to analyze thousands of potential players from all over the country…

  7. tungstencoil says:

    First, just because a company posts a policy doesn’t make something right or rational. If you read the actual article, he talks about how the site was blocked at work so people could only access at home, and how it was more of a personal time activity.

    It was a work pool because they all knew each other at work.

    Also keep in mind that there are probably tons of work policies that have a lot of latitude in how they’re interpreted. “Personal email”… what about inviting a co-worker to lunch via email? What about checking your bank balance while at work? What if you check your personal credit card, both to get a reimbursable charge and to make a payment? What if you’re salaried and working at night from home? What then? Whose time is it? Whose resources?

    What if you have a fantasy football league without a buy in? What if it is really a personal one with your neighbors but a co-worker asks about it over the water cooler?

    The reality is that he probably deserved a warning, if indeed this is his only offense. According to the article, he was a model employee and had even been offered a promotion just weeks before.

    It seems kind of crappy, and that’s the point of the article. It’s also a good reminder to be on your best behavior at work.

    • Sumtron5000 says:

      He was iming people about it on company time. I think that the fact that the company was nice enough to email everyone “reminding” them about the company policy was a fair warning. No one took that seriously. The company solved that problem by doing something that will now make everyone take it seriously.

      • Sumtron5000 says:

        ETA: The article does mention he was a model employee, but I think all that information came from the guy who got fired himself. The company itself would not comment. If I were fired for going on the Consumerist all day, I would be telling everyone I was a model employee, too.

  8. solareclipse2 says:

    Hmm…sucks to be those sports guys. I just can’t get into sports so I stay out of that. I work in IT and I know what everyone’s up to and it’s against policy but when you have managers and directors taking part in pools, brackets, and fantasy leagues, it kind of sets precedent. When one guy gets singled out for something others openly do, it means he was on thin ice to begin with. What really sucks is not knowing you’re the guy others are gunning for.

    On his U5, for them to actually put “gambling” and get him blackballed, he really had to piss someone off because in my experience places will usually try to generalize the reason for the termination and minimize the damage.

  9. tbax929 says:

    I used to organize the Powerball lottery pools at my last job. It wasn’t against company policy, but it was “frowned upon”. Even though managers participated, I kept it on the down low and only included people I knew wouldn’t rat me out. I also didn’t spend work time on it.

    Now that I’m thinking about it, though, I don’t think I’ll be the lottery pool runner at my next job.

  10. kpetree10 says:

    Here’s what you do, go back to school, become an IT guy, then you can do whatever you want because you’re the guy looking at the internet usage records…

  11. vladthepaler says:

    Assuming he had prior knowledge of the policy, and he was indulging in his football fantasies during work hours, Fidelity is doing the right thing here. Though if it was limited to at home on his own time, I don’t think his fetish should be held against him professionally.

    • Sumtron5000 says:

      According to the link, they specifically fired him because of multiple IMs at work about the Fantasy Football league.

    • FatLynn says:

      If he had truly done it entirely on personal time, he would have a libel suit against the company for the information in the U5. I am sure that Fidelity has documents to back up their position.

  12. tricky1 says:

    I run a $2.00 weekly football pool at the small shop I work in, everyone including management plays and we usually end up with a $20 pot and bragging rights.

  13. Dutchess says:

    It takes a tremendous amount of time to manage these FF leagues. If he’s doing it from the office it likely involved personal calls, emails, printing rosters, internet useage and lots and lots of time.

    In my old office, someone used to like to read the rankings in the john. Everyday I would see a 25-30 page printout of fantasy football garbage that YOU KNOW this person printed on someone elses dime.

    • RickN says:

      Then he’s not doing something right.

      I’ve managed my group’s league for the past 12 years. We use internet-based software from CBS and I spend about 10 minutes a week managing the league.

      The days of combing the newspapers to compile stats and sending them around are over. Unless, of course, you like doing it like that and spending lots of time — then you forfeit any complaints about how much time it takes.

      • Dutchess says:

        I don’t begrudge a person who likes to take the time and run a FF league.

        I’m all for people persuing their hobbies, just don’t do it on the company’s dime.

    • varro says:

      Well, you could also pay for a subscription to this or other league sites that do all the dirty work for you and give real-time scoring updates during the games.

  14. bdgbill says:

    My company fired someone for this. The first thing this guy did on his first day on the job was to rearrange his office so that his computer monitor could not be seen from the door.

    On “casual Friday” he wore a giant football jersey, shorts and flip flops to the office and was sent home. As far as I could tell, this guy had no interests whatsoever outside of the multiple Fantasy Football leagues he managed.

    On his second week he was warned and the IT guy locked down his internet connection to only visit a short list of approved sites. On his third week the IT guy discovered that he had plugged his own usb cellular modem into his work machine to get around the restricted internet connection. This was the last straw and he was fired. He may not have done a single hour of actual work in the entire 3 weeks he lasted.

  15. NarcolepticGirl says:

    Really? Is this serious?

    I mean, the “other people didn’t get fired!” defense? How old is this guy?
    I’m not being rude, but how some guy getting fired for going against his employer’s policy a consumer issue?

    The most annoying thing at my last job was having to listen to the constant fantasy football and the football pool conversations. It was against company policy but out office was pretty laid back.

    • ahleeeshah says:

      To be fair, from an HR perspective, if 4 people get called in on the same offense and one gets fired when the others don’t, things do not go well if a court case or unemployment case comes up. This is, of course, provided that none of them were on a final written warning or anything like that. If this guy already had write-ups then terminating him for this while not firing others would be perfectly okay.

      Disclosure: I work in HR.

  16. Sumtron5000 says:

    The “everyone does it” defense is hysterical. When you get a speeding ticket, chances are, people around you was speeding too. That doesn’t give you an excuse.

  17. valthun says:

    Shoot my boss runs it, and we have HR and the assistant to the president involved.

  18. friday3 says:

    I think the fact that he was managing the pool and collecting money is where the real problem lies. He works for a company that gambles other peoples money every day, but needs to project an image that they are doing it as a calculated manner. Just like I don;t have a problem with Pete Rose betting on football, I do have an issue when he bets on baseball. Having somebody who can change the outcome in the gamble is a problem. How about running a FF league without money once the directive came down?

  19. Krobar says:

    My boss is part of my Fantasy Football League. :)

  20. oldgraygeek says:

    I’m sure his Web activity sealed his fate.
    No sympathy.

  21. feckingmorons says:

    Yes, it is illegal gambling in many locations. Yes it is prohibited by the firm. I assume the fired employee had a series 7 (and probably others) license. One would think that he would have enough sense not to engage in this type of activity in his office, much less at all.

    Coming forward and complaining to the media will probably harm his chances for employment elsewhere, and as someone mentioned having ‘fired gambling in violation of firm rule and local law’ on his U5 form will most probably make him ineligible for licensure for quite some time.

    He should not have participated, and when fired he should have STFU.

  22. Torchwood says:

    I’ve always had this strange little policy. Work is work, personal is personal, and never shall the two intertwine. That means that company e-mail belongs to the company, and isn’t used for personal use, and vice-versa. That, combined with the popular “show up to work”, “show up on time”, “when at work, WORK!”, and “be a professional”, helps in career success. An occasional, “I’ll step up and work another shift” helps too, especially in this economy.

    As for a fantasy sports league at work, there are enough question mark for me to “stay away”, especially the part about the “work-related”. I run the company toy drive, and even then, I got the blessing of upper management. Most of the work was done during breaks, lunch, and after work hours. A tiny portion was done on company time, and only when it was really slow.

  23. Opie says:

    The story is not complete. He worked for a financial services company (Fidelity). The company a well as the industry regulators have strict no gambling policies. It doesn’t matter if he is on his own time or his company’s time, gambling at any time makes him a a violator. This includes Fantasy Football, neighborhood poker, or any other “friendly bet.” This isn’t just a Fidelity policy…if you are in the industry you know that even joking about Texas Hold’em can get you put on a watch list and terminated if they find you’ve been even playing for funsies.

  24. SyntaxError says:

    Dude should have doing his job instead of playing fantasy football on company time. He brought this on himself.