Empty stadium means no work for employees

By Jeffrey Smith ([email protected])

By now, most baseball fans in Canada, or at least those who follow the Toronto Blue Jays, are aware a three-game series the team had scheduled to play in its home stadium, the Rogers Centre, against the Philadelphia Phillies at the end of June has been moved to Philadelphia.

A summit of leaders from the G20 countries is taking place in Toronto that weekend and the Rogers Centre lies within a security zone for the summit. The logistics of having thousands of people going through the zone became too onerous, so the decision was made to move the games. Many have complained this move is unfair to fans, but what about employees of the stadium and the team who work at games? Are these employees entitled to some sort of compensation?

The three games, which will be played from June 25 to 27, will still be considered home games for the Blue Jays, and the Phillies will apparently split the gate revenues with the Jays. However, Toronto effectively loses three home games, games during which employees would be manning souvenir booths, selling concessions, cleaning washrooms, bartending, hosting private boxes and other services normally provided to the crowds that attend sporting events. Now there are three fewer games when these employees would be working.

Because the baseball season runs April to early October, a good number of these employees are seasonal. But they are hired to work the Blue Jays’ home games over the course of the season, the dates of which are set well in advance. In addition, larger crowds were expected for this series because it marked the return of former Blue Jays star pitcher Roy Halladay, who was traded to the Phillies in the off-season. This would likely have meant big business for the stadium and lots of work for employees.

It’s not clear at this point what the Blue Jays or the Rogers Centre intend to do for employees who now won’t be working those games, if anything. Does the removal of these games change the employment contract for team and stadium employees? Are they entitled to compensation for the lost work? Even if they are employed on a shift-by-shift, game-by-game basis, was there an expectation they would be working on June 25 to 27 because it was in a set schedule, which was changed less than seven weeks before the games? Is the team and stadium responsible for finding other work, or at least should it be?

A lot can depend what is in the individual contracts for each employee, but if there isn’t anything specific that addresses this situation, it could be interesting to watch — even if there aren’t any games at the ballpark.

Jeffrey R. Smith is the editor of Canadian Employment Law Today, a publication that looks at workplace law from a business perspective. For more information, visit www.employmentlawtoday.com.

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