Friday, June 27, 2008

Major League Baseball Player Chokes, Film at 11!

Employment at Will or Willing to be Employed?

Most jobs involve being an employee "at will".

An article on Yahoo this morning by Larry Buhl asks the question: Can lifestyle activities get you fired? Read the article here. The answer is of course, "it depends". As Buhl points out in his article, most employees don't know understand that their jobs are "at will", and subject to various legal challenges, an employer can let them go at any time for any reason. The opposite side of this common law legal concept is that the employee is free to leave their employer at any time, and work someplace else.

Naturally, most employers are not this capricious, and follow their own internal policies,a s well as those placed upon them by legislation to conduct terminations that are legal and will normally stand up to litigation. And, most well qualified and talented employees are able to choose employment where they would not be subject to the possibility of being fired for no good reason, so "at will" generally works well because it is balanced by competing economic interests.

Not all employees are employees at will. Take professional athletes for example, most athletes have signed a personal contract with their team. In this case, the athletes are paid much higher wages than the average worker, but must commit their skills and talent to the team that they signed with for the duration of that agreement. This works well most of the time. Sometimes, athletes will make headlines by "holding out" for a better contract, or demanding to be traded because they no longer like playing for a certain team or coach. Even binding agreements don't work perfectly.

That makes the case of Houston Astros pitcher Shawn Chacon even more notable. Chacon was released by his team yesterday after a confrontation with the team's General Manager Ed Wade, which culminated in Wade being choked and thrown to the ground by Chacon, according to published reports.

Like most employers who are confronted with an insubordinate and violent employee, the Astros terminated Chacon yesterday. In sport vernacular, he was released. The big difference here from the typical release is that the Astros took the further step of exercising a clause in Chacon's contract that allows them to refuse to pay him if he should "fail, refuse, or neglect to conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship'. In Chacon's own words, "So at that point I lost my cool and I grabbed him by the neck and threw him to the ground. I jumped on top of him," he said. "Words were exchanged."

That little phrase and choke hold may cost Chacon $983,000. The Major League Baseball Players Association has already said they will challenge this decision with a grievance.

In the meantime, maybe Chacon will be choking himself for at the very least lack of control.

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