It’s that time of year – the NFL season is drawing to a close and fantasy football leagues are in the midst of the playoffs.  Fantasy leagues are as popular as ever and cover all sports, not just football.  Fantasy leagues based on the NFL are by far the most popular and in many instances are comprised of co-workers and in some cases the use of company resources like email.

Which leads us to the firing of four employees in Fidelity Investments’ Westlake, Texas office for playing Fantasy football.  Fidelity’s take on the firing:

We have clear policies that relate to gambling. Participation in any form of gambling through the use of Fidelity time or equipment or any other company resource is prohibited. In addition to being illegal in a lot of places, it can also be disruptive. We want our employees to be focused on our customers and clients.

One of those fired, Cameron Pettigrew, knew that Fidelity did not permit playing fantasy on company time but claimed he never used company email for the league.  Fidelity did find two instant messages that included fantasy content.  Pettigrew explained:

One of my buddies sent me something about how bad Trent Edwards was playing or something like that, So they called me in and talked to me for about 90 minutes on everything I ever knew about fantasy football. They interrogated me as though I was some sort of international gambling kingpin. Then they released me for the day, and I was like, ‘OK.’ I never thought they’d fire me for this, but, the next day, I get the call saying I had been terminated.

Tough time of year to be fired and Pettigrew knew he wasn’t allowed to play at work, but was he really playing?  The Ft. Worth Star Telegram asked its readers if Fidelity overreacted:

Did Fidelity overreact by firing fantasy football players?
(1) No. (19%, 60 votes)
(2)Yes. (57%, 185 votes)
(3)Depends. (There’s no way outsiders can know the whole story.) (24%, 78 votes) 

It seems unlikely that Pettigrew and his cohorts have any legal challenges to the firing as Texas is an at-will employment state.   If a company has a policy against playing in a fantasy league during work time, don’t play.