With Super Bowl Sunday this weekend, many employees are busy making plans to watch the big game. But that’s not all they are planning as seminal sporting events like the Super Bowl and the NCAA’s March Madness give rise to the ever present workplace betting pools.
An employer may even decide to sponsor a workplace pool, Super Bowl party or a happy hour out watching the games to build office camaraderie.
While this may have a positive effect on employee morale and engagement, employers should be aware of the potential risks of such activities as well. Here are some tips and strategies for an employer to consider and make sure it has its head in the game:
Develop and Implement a Workplace Gambling Policy
It is important for employers to develop, implement and enforce a policy regarding workplace gambling, not only for big events like the Super Bowl but also to address the rapid growth of fantasy sports pools. This policy should be provided to all employees and supervisors and be part of the employee handbook.
While gambling is illegal in most states, many carve out an exception for gambling that occurs in a social context and is not commercialized. Thus, most workplace pools that are small and voluntary are permitted under these state laws.
However, an employer should be aware of the gambling laws in the jurisdiction in which it is operating. The policy should define gambling, provide guidelines on what types of activities will and will not be allowed on the employer’s premises and assist employers in identifying and responding to employees who have a serious gambling problem.
With events like the Super Bowl and Final Four, employers should establish clear parameters for any workplace pools such as the maximum amount of the bet and that participation in any workplace pool should not interfere with an employee’s work-related duties and responsibilities. They also should ensure that all workplace pools remain a casual bet between co-workers and make sure they are not used by an employee or supervisor to profit at the expense of others.
Monitor Workplace Betting and Gambling
Employers should be vigilant and make sure to properly monitor any workplace gambling or betting pool, especially if any of the employees involved are tasked with handling money or valuable property or are known to have a chronic gambling problem.
They also may want to advise employees of how to handle any complaints regarding the workplace pool, and to whom they should voice any concerns. It will be important to address any issues or disputes before they escalate and negatively affect the workplace.
It’s also worth noting that labor laws may be implicated because if an employer permits employees to solicit each other to participate in a workplace pool during working time, that may also open the door to other types of solicitation for charitable or union-related causes.
An employer should also carefully consider whether it will permit employees to use the employer’s computer systems, email, equipment and other electronic resources in order to engage in gambling activities. Further, if the employer itself is sponsoring the pool, it should not collect a fee from employees, and it should make it clear that participating in the pool is completely voluntary and that employees who choose not to participate will not face any adverse consequences.
Closely Observe Alcohol Intake
If the employer sponsors any work-related happy hours or events to watch the Super Bowl or other big games, it should be careful to monitor alcohol intake and curb excessive drinking and other substance abuse as this could create significant liability for the employer. Safety issues are paramount especially if driving after the event is involved.
If an employee is drinking during working hours or at an employer-sponsored event, and has a subsequent drunk driving accident, injuring himself, co-workers or third parties, the employer may be liable. Thus, it is critical to advise employees of the employer’s policies on drugs and alcohol well in advance. In addition, it may be a good idea to designate a management employee to monitor employee alcohol intake and closely monitor behavior. Employees who have had prior issues with drugs and alcohol should be closely watched.
Attempt to Curb Lost Productivity
Late nights up socializing and watching the Super Bowl can make for a very tired workforce the next day and lead to many employees calling in sick or coming late to work. Therefore, it is a good idea for an employer to remind employees of its policies regarding attendance and tardiness as well as paid time off.
Employers also may want to allow employees to work a more flexible day on the Monday following a big event by staggering an employee’s work hours or permitting them to work remotely. Additionally, an employer should make sure that the employees who do come to work the next day are sober and ready to work so as not to jeopardize the health and safety of others in the workplace.