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An estimated 56 Million Americans Participate in Tournament-Related Activities while on the Clock

 

Now that NCAA Basketball Tournament brackets have been filled out, many employees are likely to be more focused on the performance of their teams rather than their own. According to Joseph W. Gagnon, partner in the Houston office of management-side labor and employment law firm Fisher & Phillips, March Madness office pools can be a great team-building exercise that boosts workplace morale; however, management should be aware of a few pitfalls that may arise if left unchecked.

 

Before March drives employers to Madness, Gagnon recommends they create a game plan taking the following stats and tips into account:

 

  • Stay in bounds. An estimated 50,000 Americans participate in office pools, wagering about $3 billion, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas and Pregame.com, respectfully. Gambling is always illegal in Texas, though office pools may be lawful under certain circumstances. Though the interpretations of legal experts may vary, according to Gagnon, office pools may operate legally if the following three criteria are met:
  1. Gambling must occur in a private place. Some workplace settings with no public access will qualify, though retail businesses and other workplaces open to the public may not.
  2. No person can receive any economic benefit other than personal winnings. Put another way, all money paid in must be paid out.
  3. Each participant must have equal odds of winning or losing, skill and luck aside.

 

  • Don’t let penalties hurt your game. Whether filling out brackets, streaming games online, or skipping out of work early to hit the sports bars, an estimated 56 million employees historically have reported spending at least one hour on tournament-related activities during the workday, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. If this holds true, employers stand to lose at least $1.9 billion in lost wages during the first week March Madness alone. Employers can block some of these activities by creating a defense strategy. They should remind employees of leave policies, including whether advance notice is required for planned leave or a doctor’s note for sick leave; remind employees of computer policies that may relate to streaming video or use of email systems; and reiterate to employees what is expected of them in regards workplace attire and appropriate behavior.

 

  • Referee foul language on social media. More than 262,000 people follow the official March Madness twitter feed. As sports-related conversations and “trash talking” often go hand-in-hand, employers may need to review who handles their company accounts, as well as if their employee’s personal accounts have company ties. Employers should remind these employees of the importance of discretion. As we’ve seen time-and-time again, it only takes one inappropriate comment on social media to initiate a PR nightmare, which may also have legal implications.

 

According to Gagnon, March Madness office pools can boost workplace morale and build a stronger, more connected workforce. But, failing to take simple, constructive steps to maintain productivity and comply with state law can leave employers left to mend their wounds on the sidelines. 

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