Tom Brady was innocent. You can hate him because he's pretty or beat your team in the playoffs or shrieks like an 8-year-old girl on a waterslide. But you can't hate him for DeflateGate because he didn't do it. Four Games in the Fall, a documentary debunking the scandal, confirms that the Ideal Gas Law, not a hapless equipment manager, was responsible for those soft footballs in the 2014 AFC Championship Game. When Brady (a general studies major) and Belichick (an economics major) shrugged and said they didn't know why the footballs ended up below standard, they were telling the truth, but any MIT freshman knew exactly what had happened. You can see the law at work any cold morning when you get in your car and the tire pressure reads 4-5 lbs lower it does during warmer parts of the day. It's science, not scandal and a great example for why you need to document your employment issues.
At some point, your company is going to be challenged over the termination of an employee. When that happens, an arbitrator or jury is going to review your documentation and reach conclusions about the validity of your actions. Concurrently, the ex-employee's lawyer will employ an expert to interpret statistics about your workplace—demographics, actions taken with others, etc.—to fit his narrative. The expert will have impressive degrees, speak of science even if he distorts it and sound credible on the stand. Your expert will be appalled by his counterpart's twist of the data, but that's the reality of expert testimony in employment litigation—ethics be damned; it's science for hire.
The single best defense you have your fate determined by mercenaries is real-time documentation of employment related issues. An employee's work history with incidents, notes, training records and the like documented in real-time with supporting files gives the best picture of an employee's on the job performance—the real basis for your action—and arbitrators and juries give serious consideration to that over speculation by third party experts. The experts will still opine on your biases given the data trends in your workforce, but real-time documentation of critical issues and incidents will spare you from relying on whose nerd had the better connection with the audience. The documentation history may even help you avoid arbitration or trial in the first place.
In DeflateGate, the facts and real science didn't matter. Commissioner Goodell needed to show that he was tough on crime, true or not, and a Tom Brady jersey would provide the perfect pelt. Brady had the sublime satisfaction of serving his four game suspension, leading the Patriots to Super Bowl LI and orchestrating an improbable comeback win after being down 28-3 late in the third quarter. It was a Hollywood ending to a scandal that never should have been, but there are plenty of haters that still consider Brady a cheat based on the NFL's false narrative. The NFL has since implemented protocols on handling footballs—including documentation of inspections and chain of custody. Had that been in place, and the Patriots followed it, the footballs would still have been light at half-time, but it would've been clear that Brady wasn't the cause. Most folks including the NFL don't understand science. What they do understand is documentation.
About the author
Kyle Kirkland is President of Brick HR, Inc., the developer of JobStats documentation software. As owner, President and General Manager of Club One Casino in Fresno, California, Mr. Kirkland has extensive experience managing employees in gaming, food and beverage, facilities, security, administration and managerial positions. He has direct experience in dealing with the challenges California employers face and how to mitigate the related risk. Mr. Kirkland is also the president of the California Gaming Association, a non-profit trade association which represents California cardrooms.
Prior to joining the gaming industry, Mr. Kirkland served as the chairman of Steinway Musical Instruments, the world-renowned musical instrument manufacturer, a position he held for 17 years. Earlier in his career, Mr. Kirkland worked at Bain & Company, an international management consulting firm and Drexel Burnham Lambert, an investment bank specializing in high yield securities. Mr. Kirkland has served on the boards of several public and private companies and non-profit organizations.
Mr. Kirkland holds an A.B. degree from Harvard College magna cum laude in Economics and an MBA degree from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.