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What the Urban Meyer Situation Can Teach Us About Employment Law

Whether in sports or business, negotiation of high-level executive contracts can be intense. Parties haggle over compensation packages, benefits, job duties and titles. Sometimes, however, lost in the shuffle is the termination language. Too often in my now 20-year career as a labor and employment litigator, I’ve encountered very generic, boilerplate “For Cause” termination language in an employment agreement. Usually, this language leans heavily in favor of the employee and the result, employers can have a difficult time terminating a high-level executive, even though they engaged in conduct that makes the employer say, “What do you mean this is a close call?”

Which leads me to Urban Meyer. Meyer is the current coach of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Recently, Meyer decided not to fly home with his team after a Thursday night loss in Cincinnati (which is highly unusual for an NFL head coach). Meyer claimed he was going to spend the weekend with family in Ohio to “clear his head.” Video footage from the weekend surfaced showing Meyer in a bar with what appears to be a young woman (not his wife or daughter) dancing on/near Meyer at an Ohio restaurant/bar. Another video appears to show Meyer touching the woman’s backside. All this may not sound like a big deal, but for the fact that Meyer claimed he was spending time with his family. The situation is magnified considering that Meyer was already engaging in unusual behavior, and arguably insubordinate behavior, by not flying with his team back to Jacksonville. Further compounding the situation, Jaguars owner Shad Kahn issued a very strong statement regarding Meyer’s behavior.

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