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Four fired for playing fantasy NFL at work

Fidelity Investments reportedly fires four employees after discovering IMs related to fantasy football. Fantasy football falls foul of company's gambling policy.

Playing fantasy sports can be as addictive as watching "The Biggest Loser."

My own lowest point was when I went to see the Golden State Warriors play the Los Angeles Clippers and cheered when the Clippers' Michael Olowakandi snagged his 10th rebound. I am a Warriors fan, but Olowokandi was in my NBA fantasy team.

It took a team of bullish psychiatrists and several wily girlfriends to remove me from this iniquitous pursuit, which is why I have some sympathy with Cameron Pettigrew and three of his fellow Fidelity Investments employees.

Actually, they are former Fidelity employees, as, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, they were all fired from Fidelity's Westlake, Texas office for playing fantasy NFL during their hours of employment.

Fidelity is the world's No. 1 sponsor of mutual funds. These are, I believe, the folks who tell you in their ads to follow the green line on your way to having hairy gray ears and a condo in Boca. It sounds like a sure thing, but we all know how this 401(k) thing can sometimes work out.

So perhaps you might find it curious that Fidelity frowns on gambling. And fantasy NFL, where money might be involved, is, according to the company, gambling.

"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," Fidelity spokesman Vin Loporchio told the Star-Telegram.

He added: "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."

Righteous words, indeed. However, Pettigrew made some rather human points. "Firing a guy for being in a $20 fantasy league? Let's be honest; that's a complete overreaction," he told the Star-Telegram.

This whole thing started in October when e-mails pertaining to a different fantasy league fell before the eyes of Fidelity management. It was then that they realized that Pettigrew was the commissioner of an office league.

Pettigrew, however, said that managers and leaders played in at least 10 fantasy leagues around the office. This was despite the fact that Fidelity does have a policy against fantasy leagues, a policy that Pettigrew says was routinely ignored.

Even though Pettigrew says he never sent fantasy-related e-mails at work, it all seems to have come down to two IMs that Pettigrew received.

"One of my buddies sent me something about how bad Trent Edwards was playing or something like that," Pettigrew told the Star-Telegram. "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."

Shortly afterward, four league commissioners, including Pettigrew, were fired.

Corporations have many rules. Indeed, I know people in corporations who rather enjoy making up rules and enforcing them.

But perhaps the first rule should be to ascertain whether an employee's private behavior, even if occasionally on company time, actually does adversely affect his work performance. Or whether it might actually help it.