The subject of fantasy sports — and employees who participate in them — got some headlines recently when Fidelity reportedly fired four staffers, including a manager in Texas, for playing fantasy football on the job. The start of a trend?
Of course, employers have the right to dictate what employees do during work time, especially on their employers’ computers. The question is whether employers should overlook activities such as fantasy sports as harmless diversions.
Consider some statistics on the topic:
- The Fantasy Sports Trade Association cited a June survey that found 29 million people played fantasy sports in the United States and Canada in the past year, a 45% increase over 2007.
- Outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas has estimated that during the National Football League’s 2008 season, workers playing fantasy football cost U.S. employers some $615 million per week in lost productivity.
Fantasy sports leagues involve participants who often pay to enter a league and at the end of a season the pooled money is distributed to the player whose “team” — built on the statistics generated by real professional athletes — wins the competition. The leagues provide revenue for online companies.