What guidelines should an employer provide to employees conducting office pools?

Author: Jill Gormley, Strong and Clear Communications

An employer that will allow workplace gambling activities such as office pools should first consider how much gambling activity to allow.

For example, an employer may choose to permit a Super Bowl pool or a casino-themed holiday party, but ban a season-long fantasy football league or poker tournament.

After deciding the circumstances in which to permit gambling, the employer should ensure that all employees are aware of them. An employer should then consider whether the employer will permit employees to use workplace resources such as computers and email to conduct such pools and set forth parameters for such use.

Employers may require the employees to limit discussion or participation in the gambling to off-work hours and/or break times. Employers also may choose to limit the cost of participating in any pool by making a rule that participation in the workplace Super Bowl pool may cost no more than $5.00, for example.

Employers are advised to monitor the amount of time employees are spending on gambling activities and adjust the policy if necessary. If an employer chooses to permit office pools, employers should make sure that those employees who choose not to participate or whose religion prohibits gambling do not suffer any negative harassment.

Employers should also be careful and review state gambling laws, as some state laws include office pools in illegal gambling. If an employer has employees in multiple states, the employer should consider whether it is inadvertently condoning illegal behavior and whether an employer-wide policy related to gambling is appropriate.