Why a pile of deflated balls (deflategate) might still matter in your life…

eeoc lawyer discrimination in texasLast summer you couldnt get anywhere near any sports media without having to hear about the Patriots, Tom Brady and those deflated balls at the center of deflategate. For 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999% of the world the issue was deflated with the trial courts ruling that the four game suspension exceeded the terms of the NFLs collective bargaining agreement. For most people who do not and have not ever worked a union job there was a brief moment where fundamental issues in labor law (and not the ideal gas law) became relevant in pop culture only to drift back into obscurity with the beginning of week one of the NFL season. Brady has played the season and the Cowboys wont play a regular season game against the Patriots for several years. So why would this possibly matter to somebody working in Dallas or Fort Worth?

We arent actually done with deflategate. The NFL appealed the trial courts ruling and that appeal was set for oral arguments for late winter or early spring in 2016. So we will potentially endure another deflategate-filled offseason and certainly will receive at least one more judicial opinion on the matter. Unless the appeals are withdrawn from the appellate court, the appellate court will have to render some ruling and the case may be returned to the trial court for further proceedings or even appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. This line of cases may exceed Bradys career with the NFL. But still, will anybody not named Tom Brady, the Patriots and maybe a handful of AFC teams really care?

You might, especially if you happen to be a Dallas Cowboys player or play for a team in the NFL who suffers punishment from the NFL over events occurring in Dallas. Youre probably not a professional football player but you might work under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement or other employment contract that invokes the same types of labor law issues and although deflategate may be set in courts beyond Texas the opinion of the appellate court could be valuable in a Texas employment situation. This very minor issue about football pressure has reached into the CBA to an important question about the power of an employer to use a broad and vague disciplinary policy negotiated into the CBA to craft discipline for nonspecific policy violations. It strikes at the core of industrial due process, itself at the core of labor law. If employers can successfully negotiate these broad policies into union employment contracts and enforce them on nonspecific conduct violations then much the industrial due process may be lost under those bargained agreements. On the other hand, it also implicates the power of the parties to bargain over the terms of the agreement and for the union to give up certain rights to the employer in exchange for other more desirable benefits.

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