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3 Business Lessons From Babe Ruth's Employment Contract

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

The legendary Babe Ruth had an employment contract like any other employee, but his had a few extra conditions you might not have considered.

A 92-year-old contract between the New York Yankees and George Herman "Babe" Ruth is up for auction, and it reveals some interesting bits about the strings attached to his career. TMZ Sports reports that the Great Bambino was paid $52,000 per season, but he couldn't "stay up later than 1 o'clock A.M." without "permission and consent of the club's manager."

Here are three lessons your business can take away from Babe Ruth's careful contract:

1. Make Your Substance-Abuse Policy Explicit in Contract.

The Sultan of Swat was somewhat notorious for his alcohol use, which is likely why the New York Yankees included a clause that the player "refrain entirely from the use of intoxication liquors." You're unlikely to be hiring any notorious drunks like Babe Ruth, but you may decide that you don't want your employees to come into work drunk or high.

Make sure that as part of your employment contract or intake process, you get your employees' consent to perform drug and alcohol tests, as well as any discipline that follows non-compliance or failure. You may have a much harder time trying to restrict your employees' out-of-work drinking or cigarette use, but a complete ban on marijuana use should be fine.

2. You Probably Can't Set Curfews.

The Great Bambino was contractually obligated to be in bed by 1 a.m., but it seems unlikely that you can force your employees to do the same. Instead of a contract-enforced curfew, make it clear in your employee conduct policy that workers who appear overly tired or exhausted may be sent home without pay. Just like sick employees, sleep-deprived employees can be a danger to themselves and other employees.

3. Keep Non-Compete Clauses Reasonable.

Although it seems practically unlikely, Babe Ruth was barred by his contract with the Yankees from playing any other sport during his three years with New York. The most analogous contract provision employers should consider is the non-compete clause. These clauses can keep your high-value employees from benefiting your competition so long as they:

  • Are supported by consideration (e.g., in exchange for being hired);
  • Protect your business interests or trade secrets (not just to spite an employee who leaves); and
  • Are reasonable in scope and duration.

So if you're the Red Sox, you can definitely keep your ex-employee from playing for the Yankees for a year or two.

Have any more questions about employment contracts? Check out FindLaw's section on Employment Offers and Contracts, post a question in our online Answers forum, or use our directory to find an experienced employment lawyer near you.

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