5 Reasons March Is Madness For Employers

NEW ORLEANS – Employers could take March Madness as an opportunity to cultivate camaraderie among employees. But, the aim to boost morale can backfire as a culture of “bracketology” balloons in the workplace and creates a vacuum of productivity loss.

         According to Tim Scott, an attorney with Fisher & Phillips LLP, a national labor and employment law firm that represents management, employers shouldn’t let their guard down.

         “Some employees can feel left out of their office pools,” Scott said, “if they are unable to participate or they aren’t invited. Maybe they can’t afford the entry fee or the organizer decides to exclude women. At best, employees have hurt feelings. At worse, they accuse their employer of discrimination.”

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         Scott said permitting employees to sign up other employees for gambling pools counts as solicitation. Solicitation policies must be enforced uniformly, according to rules set forth by the National Labor Relations Board. Scott said if you let employees solicit for brackets in the workplace, you also may have to also let them solicit for a union.

         “Office pools have expanded into big money over the years as employee participation has swelled,” Scott said. “In some cases, thousands of dollars are at stake. Gambling losses can easily ignite tension between employees. In fact, employers have historically banned gambling because it led to fights, not because it’s illegal.”

         “No employer wants to condone illegal activity,” he said. “It’s simply not worth the risk, no matter how small.”

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         Scott said almost 250,000 people follow the official March Madness twitter feed. Spikes in social media activity can increase the risk of employees publicly badmouthing their bosses during a time with the NLRB is expanding its oversight in this area and siding with employees.

         To limit the risks associated with March Madness, Scott said to prohibit employees from using work computers to engage in March Madness activities, limit March Madness related activities to non-work time during breaks, lunch and in the parking lot, restrict supervisors from participating in office pools and enforce no-solicitation and no-gambling policies.


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