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Vicki Iovine

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Divorce, Dodgers Style

Posted: 12/04/09 10:30 AM ET

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt must have savored like a sugarplum the sensation of firing his wife Jamie as CEO of the team's organization." What person who's been married for two or three decades hasn't wanted to fire their spouse? Come to think of it, I have a kid or two I wouldn't mind furloughing in times of crisis.

Not knowing either of the McCourts, I join the rest of Los Angeles in conjecturing whether Frank's Fire Drill was more motivated by the team getting eliminated from the play-offs by the Phillies or by Jamie's expense account reflecting charges from a holiday abroad with her bodyguard Jeff.

While I may not know the McCourts, I do know a little something about divorce and firing people. Frank won the first round of this smack-down because the impact of firing someone is that it allows you to affix blame. He cited "insubordination" as his justification for terminating the girl he's been with since college. Wow, she didn't do what he told her to do! What sweet revenge terminating her must have provided since California's No Fault divorce laws no longer allow spouses to call each other adulterers or drunks or other such public humiliations--at least not in court.

Jamie responded by filing for divorce, but the catch-all justification of "irreconcilable differences" just doesn't carry the same accusatory sting, does it? She may have been implying that their family would be shattered, that there would be seismic financial and business repercussions and that the sanctity of their vows would be violated, but those things are rather subtle considerations in the emotional bonfire that inspires such a break up. "I file to end our marriage" doesn't pack the publicly pillorying punch of Donald Trump's trademark declaration of "You're fired!"

His lawyers said that he could fire her even without accusing her of anything because she was an "at will" employee; meaning that he could terminate her just because he was in the mood or had a whim. I'm just guessing here, but he probably couldn't resist the "insubordination" bit because it added a public stinger; he didn't have to prove it anyway.

The dictionary defines insubordination as "defiant of authority and disobedient to others." Who knows if she was all that as an employee? As a wife, however, it is pretty clear that Jamie was defiant and disobedient all over the place. Then again, wouldn't most husbands claim the same about their wives? That's the problem with women nowadays, we tend to be unruly and to think for ourselves-especially when we can afford to be. Women who don't have to depend on their mates for money are often the worst offenders and no matter what happens, Jamie is a very rich woman.

In my own little life, I once fired an "at will" employee who stole my credit card to pay a retainer to a criminal law firm. Evidently, this guy had been accused by an elderly woman of taking her to Las Vegas and romancing her for money, but I digress. In the end, I was advised by my own attorney to pay him a hefty severance because he would then agree not to sue me for firing him for some "illegal reason," such as discrimination or sexual harassment.

These charges would have been laughable except that I was warned that juries are notoriously humorless. California law is notable for its intention to give special protection to employees who might be victimized powerful employers. It's a relic of our "stick it to the man" ethos left over from the sixties, and in my case, I guess I was "the man."

So I can't help wondering what would happen if Jamie sued Frank and the Dodgers, for firing her for an illegal reason-say maybe, sexual harassment. I can imagine a juicy little case in which she maintains that her employer fired her because she rejected his sexual advances (perhaps Jeff-the-Bodyguard would testify here) and thereby violated public policy. She would most certainly be sticking it to the man and, really, isn't that really what she wants to do?