Office Pools, Bracket Challenges and Fantasy Leagues: What’s an Employer’s Best Bet?

Workplace betting pools, fantasy leagues and bracket challenges can be popular at workplaces throughout the year, with key events like the Super Bowl and the NCAA College Basketball Tournament providing opportunities for gamesmanship and team-building.

While these activities can foster excitement in the workplace and allow employees to find common ground on issues outside of work, an employer should be aware of the downside of office pools.

Here are some key tools and resources to help an employer manage employees effectively and reduce the risk of liability:

Workplace Policies and Rules

An organization’s approach to workplace betting pools and watching sports events during working time varies based on business goals, available resources and the nature of the work being performed. Often, scheduling workplace events around sports playoffs may foster team-building opportunities and encourage positive employee relations.

However, events that happen during the workday (March Madness or the Olympic games, for example) often present distractions for workers that may affect their productivity and deliverables.

For diehard fans, there is also the potential for strained co-worker relationships (e.g., sore winners or losers).

An employer has a number of options available when addressing betting pools, workplace gambling and fantasy sports leagues. For an employer particularly concerned with its image, reputation and resources, a complete ban of any workplace gambling may be in order. Other employers may choose to allow pools so long as no games are actually viewed during working time or while using employer-provided devices or networks.

However, an employer should be aware that some states may have specific rules regarding gambling that could affect specific workplace policies and practices. In addition, when dealing with an employee with a potential gambling addiction, an employer should take note that gambling addictions are not recognized as disabilities under federal and state disabilities laws and may be excluded from benefits coverage.

Employers may wish to institute a policy specifically addressing betting pools, workplace gambling and fantasy sports leagues.

Supervisor Training

Supervisors need to be keenly aware of the employer’s policies and work rules regarding office pools, use of employer resources in making bets or streaming sports events, attendance, discipline and any other applicable policies.

For example, a supervisor may need to know whether an employer’s nonsolicitation policy applies to a March Madness pool. If an employee is found to be engaging in online gambling during working hours, a supervisor may need to take action.

In addition, an employer’s liability risks may rise if supervisors engage in ineffective performance management.

Work Rules and Discipline Procedures

It’s not enough for an employer to address gambling in a policy manual or employee handbook. These policies and rules must be enforced in a fair and consistent manner in order to further the employer’s business goals.

There are a number of considerations when deciding how to manage an employee with a potential gambling problem or address chronic absenteeism. Often, employee discipline should not be the first step when dealing with an issue.

However, because betting pools and workplace gambling may lead to a number of liability risks for the employer, supervisors should follow best practices when discipline becomes necessary.